From The Conversation–Every day we are exposed to things like pollution and ultraviolet light which increase our risk of illness. Many people take on additional risks — due to tobacco smoke, fast food or alcohol, for example.
But there is a less-recognized exposure that is even more common than smoking and increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic lung diseases, sexually transmitted infections, chronic pain, mental illness and reduces one’s life by as much as 20 years.
This public health hazard that hides in plain sight is childhood adversity: experiences like physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.
Childhood adversity is common
In Canada, one child in three is physically or sexually abused or witnesses violence between adults in their home. Other adversities such as emotional neglect, living in an unsafe neighbourhood or experiencing prejudice and bullying are even more common. Studies in the United States show about 60 per cent of children and teenagers have these adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. The more severe the exposure, the greater the health risk.
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