The Long Shadow of Childhood Trauma

Assessing the impact of childhood trauma on the physical and mental health of low-income adults

A participant’s quality of life declined with each added exposure to childhood trauma.

Dates of Project: January 2012 to January 2013

Field of Work: Assessing the impact of health insurance on low-income people exposed to childhood trauma

Problem Synopsis: Researchers have documented the negative effects of childhood trauma on adult health, but few have focused on low-income, mostly uninsured adults. And little is known about the effects of access to health insurance on the health of adults who faced childhood trauma.

Synopsis of the Work: Researchers mailed surveys to 12,963 participants in the Oregon Health Study, with questions from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. (Some 50% responded.) The team used the resulting information to calculate a childhood trauma score for each respondent, and to update information on his or her health.

The findings suggest the potential benefits of expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act.

Key Findings

  • Associations between childhood trauma and risk of depression, hypertension, and obesity were significant.
  • The relationship between childhood trauma and self-reported, health-related quality of life was significant.
  • Exposure to childhood trauma was significantly associated with smoking.

The researchers are now analyzing the effects of access to health insurance on the health of these respondents.

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Low-income adults who faced childhood trauma are at higher risk of hypertension, depression, and obesity