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People Growing up with a Jailed Family Member have Worse Health

Update Date: Aug 01, 2014 03:04 PM EDT

People who end up in jail can negatively impact the health of their family members, a new study reported. According to the researchers, kids who grew up in a household where a family member was imprisoned had a greater risk of having poor health quality as adults in comparison to kids who did not grow up with an incarcerated family member.

"These people were children when this happened, and it was a significant disruptive event," said Annie Gjelsvik, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health and lead author of the study according to the press release. "That disruptive event has long-term adverse consequences."

For this study, the team examined data taken from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, which involved more than 81,000 adults. The information covered the time period from 2009 to 2010 when 12 states and the District of Columbia collected data on mental and physical health and childhood adversity, which included the main question, "Did you live with anyone who served time or was sentenced to serve time in a prison, jail or other correctional facility?" The 12 states were Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, Washington in 2009 and Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin in 2010.

Overall, the researchers found that 4.5 percent or 3,717 people reported growing up with an incarcerated family member. The researchers used statistical analysis techniques to calculate the participant's risk of suffering from poor health quality. They accounted for age, education, income, and number of other adverse childhood experiences, which included but were not limited to emotional, physical and sexual abuse. The researchers calculated that people who grew up with a jailed family member had an 18 percent greater risk of poor health during adulthood in comparison to people who did not grow up with an imprisoned family member.

The study was published in the Journal of Healthcare for the Poor and Underserved.

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