Childhood trauma is a risk factor for depression and anxiety, but the long-term impact is not entirely clear. Researchers from both Amsterdam Public Health and Amsterdam Neuroscience examined how childhood trauma, like emotional neglect or emotional/physical/sexual abuse, is associated with depression and anxiety.

Erika Kuzminskaite, Brenda Penninx and colleagues performed a six-year longitudinal study that involved 1,803 adults as part of the NESDA cohort. Childhood trauma was assessed in the first stage of the study. The depressive and anxiety symptomatology was evaluated every two years.

Effect of childhood trauma

The researchers indicate that childhood trauma produced more severe symptoms in all domains of anxiety and depression (more mood symptoms, cognitive problems, physical symptoms and anxiety). This means that the impact of childhood trauma is broad and aspecific. In addition, it was found that these symptoms remained consistently increased over the following six years. Childhood trauma therefore not only leads to more severe but also more chronic symptoms.

Screening for prevention

To identify people who are at risk of more severe and more chronic anxiety and depression, screening for childhood trauma is essential. Perhaps people with childhood trauma could benefit from additional interventions, as is now investigated in the RESET studies.

Read the publication in the Journal of Affective Disorders.


The Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) was designed to investigate the course of depression and anxiety disorders, in particular the psychological, social, biological and genetic factors that influence the development and the long-term prognosis of anxiety and depression.

The main aim of NESDA is to determine the (psychological, social, biological and genetic) factors that influence the development and long-term prognosis of anxiety and depression.

Find more information on the NESDA cohort.