Childhood Trauma and ACE Scores in the News Again

Yet another study gives us more proof that childhood trauma creates a higher risk for mental and physical health issues later in life:

Childhood Trauma Impairs Both Physical and Mental Health

I’m not here to knock Dan or his coverage of this new study. It’s newsworthy, and the numbers are very interesting. It’s also not breaking any new ground. We have known this now for a while. There have been other studies, and this new one is adding to the pile of information about childhood trauma’s impacts. That is good. Science is like that. You need to confirm and re-confirm the results of studies to ensure we are making the right decisions.

On the other hand, every time I see a chart like this one that I am quoting from the article, there is another number that sticks out to me and that I wish we could get a deeper look at:

ACE chart

When we look at the chart, we can see that among people with four, or more, trauma events in childhood (ACEs), 55% of them have had depression, 51% anxiety, 25% PTSD, and 20% deal with substance abuse. That’s just pulling out the most common items on the list. We can see those rates are significantly higher than the overall prevalence of these and very much higher than the prevalence among people who self-identified with less childhood trauma.

I think that makes sense. This is consistent with previous studies. What I want to know about, though, are the 45% who don’t have depression, the 49% who don’t have anxiety, the 75% without PTSD, and the 80% with no substance abuse issues. What was different for them? What kind of help or support was available for them as children compared to the others who did suffer from these issues? What kind of trauma were they dealing with? What kind of community did they live in? What resources were made available for them?

These, I think, are the questions that might help us understand and support the adults who find themselves now struggling. By comparing and contrasting the population with similar traumatic childhoods yet different outcomes, can we determine actions that we can take to help provide treatment that can heal trauma better than we do now? I would love to see some group take on that kind of study and tell us, for example, if getting kids into therapy early significantly impacts these percentages for adults.

There’s a lot to look at for sure, but the potential impacts are great. Let’s hope we do more studies and learn how to help more people.

For the record, the original ACE survey and an acknowledgment of the limitations of that survey can be reviewed here. I think the survey severely undercounts and underrepresents certain types of childhood trauma, and the impact is even more significant than we see.

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