Over the past 20 years, the Center for Disease Control has researched the relationship between childhood trauma and illnesses developed later in life. Traumatic experiences such as abuse or neglect, witnessing violence at home, or family with mental illness or substance abuse all had lasting negative impacts. The CDC called these events, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Their most recent study included 144,000 surveys, collected from respondents in 25 states from 2015-2017. These surveys included topics such as health problems, childhood experiences with divorce, abuse, domestic violence, drugs in the home, and mental illness. Crimes such as sexual abuse would also fall into the category of ACEs.
Traumatic childhood experiences could impact development and potentially lead to unhealthy behaviors.
ACEs negatively impact a child, but the CDC wanted to know how these events might have triggered illnesses and preventable conditions later in life. If ACEs never occurred, issues such as coronary heart disease, depression and suicide, weight issues, substance abuse, decreased education or work opportunities, poor maternal health, cancer, or sexually transmitted diseases might be potentially preventable. Researchers could not rule out other factors, such as financial stress. Still, Jim Mercy, who oversees the CDC violence protection program, says, “there’s a lot of evidence connecting these things…and it’s become clear that the more harmful incidents a child suffers, the more likely their health suffers later.”