Toxic stress in Canadian children: The intersectionality of race, socioeconomic status & health inequity

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University of New Brunswick


Exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have deleterious and long-term effects. Known as toxic stress, unmediated exposure to ACEs often results in physiological, psychological, and epigenetic changes, leading to poor physical and mental health outcomes along the life span. The paucity of literature on the effects of toxic stress in racialized Canadian children highlights the importance of this study, as racism is a unique stressor experienced by racial groups. Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth and the Canadian Community Health Survey were analyzed to describe the effects of toxic stress on Canadian youth. Multivariate regressions modeled associations between ACEs and the presence of disease, and the experiences of stress among racialized youth and poor health outcomes. Results indicated that ACEs were positively associated with the presence of chronic conditions in childhood (χ2=867.41, p < .001). Results further demonstrated that in the context of high levels of daily stress, racialized youth had increased odds of having asthma (OR:1.10, 95% CI: 1.09-1.12), diabetes (OR: 1.43, 95% CI: 1.37-1.49), and heart disease (OR:1.73, 95% CI: 1.65-1.80), and had decreased odds of having anxiety disorders (OR: 0.61, 95% CI: 0.60-0.62) and mood disorders (OR: 0.56, 95% CI: 0.54-0.56). Results suggest that both ACEs and race play a significant role in vulnerability to disease.



INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS::Children, MEDICINE::Psychiatry::Child and adolescent psychiatry, INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS::Health and medical services in society