Linking childhood abuse and hypertension: sleep disturbance and inflammation as mediators

Megan Petrov, Mary Davis, Michael J. Belyea, Alex J. Zautra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The indirect association of childhood abuse with prevalent hypertension in adulthood through sleep disturbance and pro-inflammatory biomarkers was investigated in 589 community-dwelling, middle-aged adults. Participants completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and self-reported current sleep disturbance and medical diagnoses including hypertension. Blood pressure was taken and blood samples were analyzed for C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and fibrinogen. Hypertension was present in 41.3 % of the sample. In the full multiple mediation model, tested using structural equation modeling, all hypothesized pathways were significant (p’s < 0.05). Childhood abuse was significantly related to both body mass index and sleep disturbance, which, both in turn, were significantly associated with inflammation, which was subsequently associated with hypertension status. The model demonstrated good fit [χ2 (122) = 352.0, p < 0.001, CFI = 0.918, RMSEA = 0.057] and the indirect effect of all mediators was significant (indirect effect: 0.02, 95 % CI 0.005–0.03, p = 0.001). Sleep disturbance, body mass, and inflammation may be independent, intermediate steps between childhood abuse and subsequent hypertension that may be amenable to biobehavioral interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)716-726
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Body mass index
  • Childhood abuse
  • Hypertension
  • Inflammation
  • Mediation
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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