Traumatic Childhood Might Take Years Off Adult Life

ATLANTA – Children exposed to traumatic situations may experience health problems and lifelong diseases before dying prematurely, says a new study.

David W. Brown, epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and colleagues found that children exposed to six or more adverse childhood experiences or ACEs were at double the risk of premature death compared to normal children.

On average, the children at highest risk eventually died at age 60 compared to low-risk children who lived to age 79.

The study conducted by Kaiser Permanente (integrated care organization) and CDC, looked at the long-term effects of these childhood experiences — undergoing verbal or physical abuse, having a battered mother and witnessing domestic violence, etc.

Data came from 17,337 adults who visited Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 and completed a standardized medical questionnaire that included questions about their childhood. Researchers followed participants through the end of 2006, using the National Death Index to discover who had died, according to a Kaiser Permanente release.

Overall, 1,539 people died during follow-up, Brown said.

People with six or more ACEs died nearly 20 years earlier on average than those without ACEs. It is also disturbing that two-thirds of study participants – persons who were relatively well off – had at least one of the ACEs,” he said.

The database of the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, utilized in this issue by Brown and his colleagues… may ultimately provide us with most important public health data ever compiled, said Sandra L. Bloom, M.D., associate professor of health management and policy at Drexel University School of Public Health.

The study is printed in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.