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Aggressive children could have worse health as adults

November 14, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Aggressive kids could be in poorer health in adulthood, a study finds
Aggressive kids could be in poorer health in adulthood, a study finds (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

Kids who show aggression could have worse health as adults, a study finds.

Lifestyle choices -- what you eat, how much you exercise -- may not be the only forecaster of health later in life. A study in the Canadian Medical Assn. Journal finds that behavior in childhood, such as aggression and social withdrawal, could predict more sickness in adulthood.

The study, released Monday, followed 3,913 children from 1976 to 1978 when they were in grades one, four and seven, through 1992 to 2006. Researchers discovered that displaying aggression in childhood was linked with an 8.1% increase in medical visits, a 44.2% rise in lifestyle-related illnesses and conditions such as obesity, alcohol dependence and type 2 diabetes and a 10.7% increase in injuries. That behavior was also associated with 12.4% more emergency room visits and a 6.2% boost in trips to see specialists.

For girls, childhood aggression was linked with more gynecological visits from ages 18 to 23, although that association wasn't seen when the women were age 29 to 34.

Other types of behavior in youth had an impact on health in adulthood. Being socially withdrawn was linked with an increased number of dental visits later in life; researchers think this could be due to lower socioeconomic status or shyness, which could lead to being hesitant about seeing a dentist, ultimately requiring more emergency visits. With popularity, however, came some benefits: being more likable in school was associated with less use of health services later on, suggesting that these people had less risky behavior and more peer support that could relieve stress.

Education also had an effect on health. Those with lower levels of education were more likely overall as adults to use more medical services, including trips to the emergency room, visits to the dentist, hospital admissions and doctor visits due to injuries.

"Our results," the authors wrote, "suggest that childhood aggression has lasting effects on physical health and can have an impact on the level of use of medical services over many years." They added that targeting this group of kids and offering better health education could pay off down the road.

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