Trust as a mediator in the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and IL-6 level in adulthood

Siu-Man Ng*, Ling-Li Leng, Qian Wen Xie, Jessie S. M. Chan, Celia H. Y. Chan, Kwok Fai So, Ang Li, Kevin K. T. Po, L. P. Yuen, Kam-Shing Ku, Anna W. M. Choi, Zoe Chouliara, Amos C. Y. Cheung, Cecilia L. W. Chan, Clifton Emery*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has been shown to predict the coupling of depression and inflammation in adulthood. Trust within intimate relationships, a core element in marital relations, has been shown to predict positive physical and mental health outcomes, but the mediating role of trust in partners in the association between CSA and inflammation in adulthood requires further study. The present study aimed to examine the impact of CSA on inflammatory biomarkers (IL-6 and IL-1β) in adults with depression and the mediating role of trust. A cross-sectional survey data set of adults presenting with mood and sleep disturbance was used in the analysis. CSA demonstrated a significant negative correlation with IL-6 level (r = -0.28, p<0. 01) in adults with clinically significant depression, while trust showed a significant positive correlation with IL-6 level (r = 0.36, p < .01). Sobel test and bootstrapping revealed a significant mediating role for trust between CSA and IL-6 level. CSA and trust in partners were revealed to have significant associations with IL-6 level in adulthood. Counterintuitively, the directions of association were not those expected. Trust played a mediating role between CSA and adulthood levels of IL-6. Plausible explanations for these counterintuitive findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0232932
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Early online date15 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2020


  • Depression
  • Child abuse
  • Inflammation
  • Emotions
  • Adults
  • Anxiety
  • Mental health and psychiatry
  • Child psychiatry


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