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Arizona Study: Early Childhood Trauma Can Lead To Poor Health Outcomes Later In Life

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Monday, May 3, 2021 - 1:28pm

Kids often experience adversity growing up. For some, it’s watching their parents go through a divorce. For others, that trauma can be experienced as child abuse or living with a parent battling addiction.

Researchers know these adverse childhood experiences can have lasting impacts, but a recent study shows there’s also a financial toll, impacting the entire community. 

Erica Quintana is a senior analyst at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University. Using data from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s Medicaid program, Quintana and her team looked at the impact of adverse childhood experiences — referred to as ACEs — in women and were able to quantify the costs.

"So what we found was that when women had three or more adverse experiences in childhood, that was associated with $260 million in annual Medicaid spending on the five diseases that are the leading causes of death in the state," she said.

Those included heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke and diabetes. Quintana said those ACEs have a direct impact on early childhood development. 

"What they do is they increase the stress, the chronic stress that a child experiences, and that chronic stress and the stress hormones can disrupt the developing brain structures in children," she said. "So those disrupted brain structures can actually lead to more anxiety, depression, impaired memory and learning."

Quintana hopes that by putting a price tag on the long-term impact of ACES, policymakers will do more to reduce the effects of these types of experiences.

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