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New study quantifies social cost of untreated traumatic childhood experiences at $14 trillion

The impacts of childhood trauma can follow people into adulthood causing what the CDC has determined is a 14 trillion dollar impact.
Kira
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RooM RF / Getty Images
The impacts of childhood trauma can follow people into adulthood causing what the CDC has determined is a 14 trillion dollar impact.

The U.S. economy could be $14 trillion larger if adult health conditions caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are prevented, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed more than 820,000 people to find out the direct and indirect economic impact of ACEs — childhood abuse or neglect, witnessing violence, seeing family members with substance use disorder, mental health struggles, having a parent incarcerated.

“We do see a lot of ACEs occurring,” said Melissa Santos, chief of pediatric psychology, Connecticut Children’s, who’s not associated with the study. “And we know that that impact is going to occur in our kids, not just in terms of their mental health, but also in terms of their physical health as well.”

In the absence of childhood intervention, ACEs have a significant impact on mental health in older adults.

Multiple U.S. and international studies have shown that adverse childhood experiences make older adults more vulnerable to cognitive decline,” said Dr. Neha Jain, associate professor of psychiatry, University of Connecticut School of Health.

“There are studies suggesting that adverse childhood experiences can negatively affect the development of resilience,” Jain said. “I often see this in clinical practice as well.”

The study’s researchers make a case for more funding in early childhood interventions.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.
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