Media Releases

Parental addictions associated with adult children’s arthritis

March 26, 2014

Arthritis in adulthood is linked to parental addictions during childhood, according to a new study by University of Toronto researchers

TORONTO, ON – The adult off­spring of par­ents who were addict­ed to drugs or alco­hol are more like­ly to have arthri­tis, accord­ing to a new study by Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to researchers.

Inves­ti­ga­tors exam­ined a group of 13,036 adults and found that 20.4 per cent of respon­dents had been diag­nosed with arthri­tis by a med­ical pro­fes­sion­al. Inves­ti­ga­tors found that 14.5 per cent of all respon­dents report­ed hav­ing at least one par­ent whose drug or alco­hol use caused prob­lems while were under the age of 18 and still liv­ing at home.

Results indi­cate that indi­vid­u­als whose par­ents were addict­ed to drugs or alco­hol are more like­ly to have arthri­tis. After adjust­ing for age, sex, and race, parental addic­tions were asso­ci­at­ed with 58 per cent high­er odds of arthri­tis, says lead author Esme Fuller-Thom­son, Pro­fes­sor and San­dra Rot­man Endowed Chair in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to’s Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work and the Depart­ment of Fam­i­ly and Com­mu­ni­ty Med­i­cine.

“We had antic­i­pat­ed that the adult offspring’s health behav­iors such as smok­ing, obe­si­ty and alco­hol con­sump­tion might explain the strong link between parental addic­tions and arthri­tis, how­ev­er we did not find this to be the case. Even after adjust­ing for these adult health behav­iors, as well as income, edu­ca­tion, a his­to­ry of child­hood mal­treat­ment and mood and anx­i­ety dis­or­ders, we found that parental addic­tions was still a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor asso­ci­at­ed with 30 per cent high­er odds of  arthri­tis” explains study co-author and recent MSW grad­u­ate, Jes­si­ca Lid­dy­coat.

Future prospec­tive stud­ies are need­ed because the sur­vey nature of the data makes it impos­si­ble to deter­mine whether the rela­tion­ship between parental addic­tions and arthri­tis is causal.

“How­ev­er, there is ample evi­dence from oth­er stud­ies to sup­port the pro­vi­sion of effi­ca­cious inter­ven­tions to treat addic­tions.” says coau­thor Maria Ste­fanyk. “Although we do not know if these inter­ven­tions will impact the devel­op­ment of arthri­tis in adult­hood, we do know that chil­dren do much bet­ter on a wide range of out­comes when par­ents are no longer abus­ing drugs and alco­hol.”

Fuller-Thomson’s research appears online this week in the Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Pop­u­la­tion Research.

Link to research:

For more infor­ma­tion con­tact:

Prof. Esme Fuller-Thom­son
Pro­fes­sor & San­dra Rot­man Endowed Chair
Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work &
Depart­ment of Fam­i­ly & Com­mu­ni­ty Med­i­cine
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Cell: 416–209-3231

Michael Kennedy
Media Rela­tions
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Office: 416–46-5025