Childhood maltreatment, genetic risk, and subsequent risk of arrhythmias : a prospective cohort study

Background: Emerging evidence has linked childhood maltreatment with cardiovascular disease risk; however, the association between childhood maltreatment and cardiac arrhythmias remains unclear. Moreover, any genetic predispositions to atrial fibrillation (AF), a common cardiac arrhythmia associated with an elevated risk of stroke, heart failure, and mortality, that modify such associations have been undocumented.

Purpose: To examine the associations between childhood maltreatment and incident arrhythmias, and whether a genetic predisposition to arrhythmias modifies these associations.

Methods: This prospective analysis included 151,741 participants from the UK Biobank (mean age 55.8 years, 43.4% male). Childhood maltreatment, including five types, was measured using the Childhood Trauma Screener (CTS). Incident arrhythmias (AF, ventricular arrhythmias [VA], and bradyarrhythmia [BA]) were documented through linked hospital admission and death registry. Weighted AF genetic risk score was calculated. Cox proportional hazard models were conducted to test for associations between childhood maltreatment and incident arrhythmias.

Results: During a median follow-up of 12.21 years (interquartile range, 11.49–12.90 years), 6,588 AF, 2,093 BA, and 742 VA events occurred. Compared with the absence of childhood maltreatment, having 3–5 types of childhood maltreatment was associated with an increased risk of incident AF (HR, 1.23; 95%CI 1.09–1.37), VA (HR, 1.39; 95%CI 1.03–1.89), and BA (HR, 1.32; 95%CI 1.09–1.61) after adjusting demographic, socioeconomic and lifestyle factors. The associations between cumulative type of childhood maltreatment and the risk of AF (Poverall < .001; Pnonlinear = .674) and BA (Poverall = .007; Pnonlinear = .377) demonstrated a linear pattern. There was a gradient association between childhood maltreatment and AF risks across the intermediate and high genetic risk groups (both Ptrend < .05) but not within the low genetic risk group (Ptrend = .378), irrespective of non-significant interaction effect (Pinteraction = .204).

Conclusion: Childhood maltreatment was associated with higher risks of incident arrhythmias, especially AF and BA. Genetic risk of AF did not modify these associations.


  • Previous studies indicate that childhood maltreatment is associated with cardiovascular disease risk.
  • Childhood maltreatment was associated with an increased risk of incident arrhythmias, particularly atrial fibrillation and bradyarrhythmia. Genetic predisposition to atrial fibrillation did not significantly modify these associations.
  • Childhood maltreatment could be a new psychological risk factor for cardiac arrhythmias in later life. Inquiries into childhood maltreatment and subsequent referral to psychological services may be helpful.
Yilin Chen, Huachen Xue, Jiajin Zhoud, Xinyue Shue, Zhixuan He, Sizhi Ai, Hongliang Feng, Jihui Zhang, Yannis Yan Liang, Yunhui Lv and Yujing Zhou | 2024
In: European Journal of Psychotraumatology ; ISSN: 2000-8066 | 15 | 1 | june | 2366055
Adults, Assessment, Child Abuse, Epigenetics, Genetics, Mortality, Predisposition, Research, Statistical Analysis