A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the link between childhood trauma and the risk of mental illness and addiction is significant enough to be considered a public health crisis. Researchers believe the links are significant enough to turn conversations toward public health policy and prevention. NPR’s Health Shots shared the full story this week.

Among the findings:

Participants who experienced childhood trauma were 1.3 times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders than adults than those who did not experience trauma, and 1.2 times more likely to develop depression or substance abuse disorder.


Participants with histories of trauma were also more likely to experience health problems, participate in risky behavior, struggle financially, and have violent relationships or problems making friends.

William Copeland, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont who led the research, said the study  is “probably the most rigorous test we have to date of the hypothesis that early childhood trauma has these strong, independent effects on adult outcomes.”

Kathryn Macgruder, an epidemiologist and professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, insists that this data should “put to rest any kind of speculation about early childhood trauma and later life difficulties.” She went on to say,

Why are we revisiting it? Because it is time to think about prevention. Trauma is a public health problem, and should be met with a public health approach.

Jonathan Purtle, a mental health policy researcher and assistant professor at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health, agrees:

We need to prevent these things from happening to children and support family and community so that people can be more resilient. Policymakers can create coalitions around issues like mental health and trauma-informed approaches in contexts like education and healthcare.

Read more of the full story by NPR here, including information on the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. SUPPORT is bipartisan piece of pending legislation that Purtle believes is not “enough” but is at least a “promising start” toward improving outcomes for those affected by the trauma of the opioid crisis.

It’s more than just ‘toughen up and deal with it. A lot of it comes down to people not having to live their lives in a state of chronic and constant stress.


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