Those who study psychology have long recognized that child abuse and neglect can lead to lifelong emotional problems. Now, scientists also have begun to learn that abuse and neglect of children can also lead to medical illnesses including heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, liver and kidney disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.
The “ACE” (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study involved interviews with 17,000 adult patients who were asked about childhood trauma as well as current and past health problems. The study revealed that adults who had been neglected or abused as children were also more likely to become adults who smoke tobacco, abuse alcohol or drugs, and commit violent crimes.
These adults were also more likely to suffer from depression, to have attempted suicide, to have had multiple sexual partners leading to higher risk of sexually transmitted infections, and to have had unintended pregnancies.
Thus in a way, child abuse and neglect can be considered the #1 public health problem in America. For more information about the ACE Study, see ACE Study on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.