Michigan Association of Health Plans

Childhood Trauma: A Lifetime of Medical Expense

Researchers are proving that for better or worse, your childhood shapes the person you become. It molds your personality, influences your education and social life, and has a lasting effect on your personal health and well-being.

Studies show significant trauma as a child has a lasting effect on an adult. Too many children today are experiencing trauma that sets them up for healthcare issues for the rest of their life.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study is one of the largest investigations conducted to assess connections between a difficult childhood and a person’s health later in life. These health and social issues in the U.S. have a profound adverse effect on a person’s health and understanding these connections can help us prevent costly illnesses and death in the future.

The ACE Study was conducted in 1995 through 1997 at Kaiser Permanente, with more than 17,000 participants. These individuals shared information about their childhood experiences including childhood maltreatment, while sharing their current health status and behaviors. Findings showed that certain experiences are risk factors that lead to causes of illness, death and poor quality of life.

What does this study mean for the U.S.? It shows that many health issues are preventable with the right care and therapy early on. That could save the U.S. billions of dollars. In 2008, neglect and abuse cost the U.S. $124 billion. Failure to address these issues results impaired cognitive and socio-emotional skills, higher risk for heart, lung and liver diseases, obesity, cancer and many more. This rivals the cost of Type 2 Diabetes or stroke in this country.

According to CDC, the estimated average lifetime cost per victim of nonfatal child maltreatment is $210,012 in 2010 including:

-childhood health care costs

-adult medical costs

-productivity losses

-child welfare costs

-criminal justice costs

-special education costs

I encourage you to carve out some time to watch the documentary, Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope. The documentary chronicles toxic stress that affect children’s minds and bodies and how experts in pediatrics, education and social welfare are using science to protect children – and save money.

If we want to truly bend the health care cost curve in our state, we need to recognize and address the critical issue of violence and stress facing many children in our state.