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Adverse life events and health: A population study in Hong Kong

Karatzias, Thanos; Yan, Elsie; Jowett, Sally


Elsie Yan

Sally Jowett


Objective: Although the effects of adverse life events on mental health have been well
documented in the literature, there has never been a population based study that investigated
systematically the association between history of adverse life events and physical health
(objective and subjective) in adults. Method: Cross-sectional, face-to-face household
population based survey of adults (18+) in Hong Kong (N=1,147). Participants were asked if
they had a diagnosis of six health conditions including hypertension, heart disease, arthritis,
diabetes, eyesight degeneration, and hearing loss. They were also asked if they had
experienced five adverse life events including death of a partner or spouse, abuse, natural
disaster, life threatening illness or injury, and family disruption. Interviews also included the
Short-Form 12 Health Survey (SFHS-12) and the short version of the Centre for
Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Results: Overall, results indicate that
specific adverse life events may be associated with specific health conditions. However, all
tested life events were associated with subjective physical and mental health. Death of partner
or parent and life threatening illness or injury were found to have the strongest association
with physical health problems. A dose-response relationship between adverse life events and
physical health in general was evident but more so for heart disease and eyesight
degeneration. Conclusion: Considering the high prevalence of traumatic events and how
common the conditions associated with such events are in the general population, screening
for adverse life events as part of comprehensive assessment will allow a deeper
understanding of patients’ needs.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 30, 2014
Publication Date 2015-02
Deposit Date Dec 9, 2014
Publicly Available Date Feb 28, 2015
Print ISSN 0022-3999
Electronic ISSN 1879-1360
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 78
Issue 2
Pages 173-177
Keywords adverse life events; physical health; well being;
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Dec 9, 2014