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

Thanos Karatzias, Chau Wai Elsie Yan, Sally Jowett

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


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= 1147). 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-177
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Adverse life events
  • Physical health
  • Well being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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