History of childhood physical abuse is associated with gut microbiota diversity among adult psychiatric inpatients

Jessica C. Rohr, Katelynn A. Bourassa, Dominique S. Thompson, J. Christopher Fowler, B. Christopher Frueh, Benjamin L. Weinstein, Joseph Petrosino, Alok Madan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Traumatic life events are associated with the development of psychiatric and chronic medical illnesses. This exploratory study examined the relationship between traumatic life events and the gut microbiota among adult psychiatric inpatients. Methods: 105 adult psychiatric inpatients provided clinical data and a single fecal sample shortly after admission. A modified version of the Stressful Life Events Screening Questionnaire was used to quantify history of traumatic life events. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was used to analyze the gut microbial community. Results: Gut microbiota diversity was not associated with overall trauma score or any of the three trauma factor scores. Upon item-level analysis, history of childhood physical abuse was uniquely associated with beta diversity. Linear Discriminant Analysis Effect Size (LefSe) analyses revealed that childhood physical abuse was associated with abundance of distinct bacterial taxa associated with inflammation. Limitations: This study did not account for dietary differences, though diet was highly restricted as all participants were psychiatric inpatients. Absolute variance accounted for by the taxa was small though practically meaningful. The study was not powered for full subgroup analysis based on race and ethnicity. Conclusions: This study is among the first to demonstrate a relationship between childhood physical abuse and gut microbiota composition among adult psychiatric patients. These findings suggest that early childhood adverse events may have long-conferred systemic consequences. Future efforts may target the gut microbiota for the prevention and/or treatment of psychiatric and medical risk associated with traumatic life events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-56
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jun 15 2023


  • Brain-gut axis
  • Childhood physical abuse
  • Gut microbiota
  • Trauma
  • Inpatients
  • Microbiota
  • Humans
  • Child, Preschool
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics
  • Adult
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome/genetics
  • Physical Abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'History of childhood physical abuse is associated with gut microbiota diversity among adult psychiatric inpatients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this