London: Smacking children may put them at greater risk of cancer, heart disease and asthma later in life, a study has claimed.
Psychologists asked adults with the diseases if they had been verbally or physically abused as children, and found that they were more likely to say they had been than healthy adults, the Telegraph reported.
The team from Plymouth University said that the stress caused by the smacking or shouting in a child’s early years may lead to biological changes which predisposes to disease.
Other studies have also suggested that severe trauma in childhood such as physical or sexual abuse may lead to an elevated risk of chronic diseases later.
However, experts said it is difficult to rule out other factors such as poverty and social isolation which are often linked to physical and verbal abuse in childhood and could cause disease later in life.
The research team asked 250 healthy adults in Saudi Arabia about their childhood and compared the answers to 150 adults with heart disease, 150 with cancer and 150 with asthma.
They were asked whether and how often they had been beaten and subjected to verbal abuse as children.
Those who had cancer were 70 percent more likely to have been beaten as a child compared to the healthy group.
Those with cardiac disease were 30 percent more likely and those with asthma 60 percent more likely.
Professor Michael Hyland, from the University’s School of Psychology, who led the study said: “Early life stress in the form of trauma and abuse is known to creating long term changes that predispose to later disease.”
“But this study shows that in a society where corporal punishment is considered normal, the use of corporal punishment is sufficiently stressful to have the same kinds of long term impact as abuse and trauma.
“Our research adds a new perspective on the increasing evidence that the use of corporal punishment can contribute to childhood stress, and when it becomes a stressor, corporal punishment contributes to poor outcomes both for the individual concerned and for society,” he added.
The findings are published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine.