UNL Study Shows Correlation Between Childhood Environment and Adult Depression, Pain

Bridget Goosby

A sociologist at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln has found a connection between poor childhood environments and adult depression and pain.

The study conducted by Bridget Goosby, UNL sociologist, looked at how childhood socioeconomic disadvantages and maternal depression increase the risk of major depression and chronic pain in working-aged adults.

The study found that missing meals in early childhood correlates with those affected by pain and depression in adulthood.

Goosby examined a survey of 4,339 adults aged 25-64 from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication looking for a relationship between circumstances in childhood and physical and mental health in working-age adults.

Goosby said her findings indicated that experiencing hunger was the most prominent child socioeconomic condition. She said, "Kids who missed meals have a much higher risk of experiencing pain and depression in adulthood."

Goosby said pain and depression are biologically linked in medical literature and childhood conditions are strongly correlated with the risk of experiencing depression. The study found that maternal depression was also a strong factor in adults with depression.

"Mother's depression mattered across the board," Goosby said. "You're at a higher risk for depression and physical pain if your mother had major depression."

Other disadvantages examined in the study included parental education. In the study, Goosby noted that those who grew up with parents with less than 12 years of education had a much higher risk of experiencing chronic pain compared to adults with more highly educated parents, a disparity that becomes evident after age 42 and grew larger over time.

Goosby said she hopes policymakers will take the information from this study to make healthy conditions for families.