For the study, researchers from the University of Toronto examined gender-specific differences in a representative sample of 5095 men and 7768 women aged 18 and over, drawn from the Center for Disease Control’s 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey.
A total of 57 men and 154 women reported being sexually abused by someone close to them before they turned 18 and 377 men and 285 women said that a doctor, nurse or other health professional had diagnosed them with a heart attack or myocardial infarction.
The study was co-authored by four graduate students at the University of Toronto, Raluca Bejan, John Hunter, Tamara Grundland and Sarah Brennenstuhl.
“Men who reported they were sexually abused during childhood were particularly vulnerable to having a heart attack later in life,” lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson said.
“We had expected that the abuse-heart attack link would be due to unhealthy behaviors in sexual abuse survivors, such as higher rates of alcohol use or smoking, or increased levels of general stress and poverty in adulthood when compared to non-abused males.
“However, we adjusted statistically for 15 potential risk factors for heart attack, including age, race, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes mellitus, education level and household income, and still found a three-fold risk of heart attack,” Fuller-Thomson added.
The study has been published online in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect.