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Logo of bmjoInstructions for authorsCurrent ToCBMJ Open
BMJ Open. 2012; 2(5): e001625.
Published online Oct 15, 2012. doi:  10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001625
PMCID: PMC3488721
Childhood adversities and adult-onset asthma: a cohort study
Jyrki Korkeila,1 Raija Lietzen,2 Lauri H Sillanmäki,3 Päivi Rautava,4 Katariina Korkeila,5 Mika Kivimäki,6 Markku Koskenvuo,7 and Jussi Vahtera8
1Department of Psychiatry, University of Turku, and Harjavalta Hospital, Satakunta Hospital District, Finland
2Department of Public Health, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
3Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
4Department of Public Health, Clinical Research Centre, Turku University Hospital, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
5Department of Health Centre of Raisio, Raisio Municipal Health Care and Social Services, Raisio, Finland
6Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
7Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
8Department of Public Health, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital and Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
Correspondence to Dr Jyrki Korkeila; jyrki.korkeila/at/
Received June 18, 2012; Accepted September 7, 2012.
Childhood adversities may be important determinants of later illnesses and poor health behaviour. However, large-scale prospective studies on the associations between childhood adversities and the onset of asthma in adulthood are lacking.
Prospective cohort study with 7-year follow-up.
Nationally representative study. Data were collected from the Health and Social Support (HeSSup) survey and national registers.
The participants represent the Finnish population from the following age groups: 20–24, 30–34, 40–44, and 50–54 years at baseline in 1998 (24 057 survey participants formed the final cohort of this study). The occurrence of childhood adversities was assessed at baseline with a six-item survey scale. The analyses were adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics, behavioural health risks and common mental disorders.
Primary and secondary outcomes
The survey data were linked to data from national health registers on incident asthma during a 7-year follow-up to define new-onset asthma cases with verified diagnoses.
A total of 12 126 (59%) participants reported that they encountered a childhood adversity. Of them 3677 (18% of all) endured three to six adversities. During a follow-up of 7 years, 593 (2.9%) participants were diagnosed with incident asthma. Those who reported three or more childhood adversities had a 1.6-fold (95% CI 1.31 to 2.01) greater risk of asthma compared to those without childhood adversities. This hazard attenuated but remained statistically significant after adjustment for conventional risk factors (HR 1.33; 95% CI 1.06 to 1.67).
Adults who report having encountered adversities in childhood may have an increased risk of developing asthma.
Keywords: Psychiatry, Epidemiology
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