"The most important public health study you've never heard of." That's what the Huffington Post calls the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study. Back in the 90's, the Centers for Disease Control surveyed more than 17,000 adult participants, studying the correlation between childhood trauma and adult medical conditions.
We all understand that if you've had a traumatic childhood, you'll probably have an emotional and psychological price to pay in adulthood. But the ACE study showed that childhood emotional trauma has an enormous impact on adult physical health as well.
The survey is a very simple 10-item yes-or-no questionnaire that's free, and takes just a few minutes to fill in. A score of 4 or above puts you at increased risk for depression, substance dependency, and other illnesses like heart disease, obesity, and even cancer. And a score of 6 or more? Well, then your life expectancy is cut by 20 years. Scary.
Three things I find really interesting about all this.
First of all, yes, indeed, my clients who have suffered childhood trauma are often troubled by a variety of physical illnesses, beyond the average. Emotional stress is a physical killer.
Second, childhood trauma includes more than repeated and egregious sexual abuse. I find that a lot of my clients say things like, "I don't know why I'm so depressed. I wasn't molested." Childhood trauma includes feeling ignored, feeling unloved, verbal put-downs, the fear of physical abuse. It includes separation and divorce of parents. It includes family members with mental illness and suicide. Click over and look at the questions.
Finally, it's amazing how helpful researchers found therapy to be. Simply talking about childhood abuse with their doctor resulted in a 35 percent reduction in doctors' visits, and an 11 percent reduction in emergency room visits. And patients who had a one-hour session with a therapist reduced their doctors' visits by 51 percent.
It's funny, but a friend of mine had just asked me for a natural remedy for depression symptoms, and I'd said, "Therapy is the most natural remedy I know of," and sure enough, the ACE study proves it.
Hello! Who wants to feel better, and spend less on health care? Let's get this conversation rolling!