OBJECTIVES: Frailty marks an increased risk for adverse health outcomes. Since childhood trauma is associated with the onset of physical and mental health diseases during the lifespan, we examined the link between childhood trauma and multidimensional frailty.
METHOD: A cross-sectional study embedded in a clinical cohort study (ROM-GPS) of older (≥60 years) patients (n=182) with a unipolar depressive-, anxiety- and/or somatic symptom disorder according to DSM-criteria referred to specialized geriatric mental health care. Frailty was assessed with the Tilburg Frailty Indicator (TFI), comprising a physical, psychological, and social dimension. Physical, sexual and psychological abuse and emotional neglect before the age of 16 years was measured with a structured interview.
RESULTS: Of 182 patients, 103 (56.6%) had experienced any childhood trauma and 154 (84.6%) were frail (TFI sum score ≥5). Linear regression analyses, adjusted for lifestyle, psychological and physical-health factors, showed that the presence of any type of childhood trauma was not associated with the TFI sum score, however when considered separately, physical abuse was (ß=0.16, p=.037). Regarding the specific frailty dimensions, any childhood trauma was associated with social frailty (ß=0.18, p=.019), with emotional neglect as main contributor.
CONCLUSION: These findings demonstrate a complex link between different types of childhood trauma and multidimensional frailty among older psychiatric patients. Regarding the three dimensions of frailty, social frailty seems most affected by childhood trauma. This may have been underestimated until now and should receive more attention in clinical care and future research.