Adults who experienced adversity in childhood have higher health care costs, researchers
Previous studies have found links between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and
later physical and mental health problems. Authors set out to look at the impact on
costs associated with those issues.
Using survey data from the University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics,
they found two-thirds of adults experienced at least one ACE, which can include experiences
like abuse, neglect, divorce, parental mental illness and parental substance abuse.
The data showed annual household out-of-pocket medical costs were $184 higher when
adults reported one or two ACEs compared to those with none and $311 higher if they
had three or more ACEs.
When adults reported at least three ACEs, they were more likely to have medical costs
exceeding 10% of their household income and medical debt.
Costs were especially high — an extra $505 a year — for single, childless adults with
at least three ACEs compared to those with none. Authors said marriage may offer a
protective effect against health issues that these single adults did not experience.
Those who were unmarried also may have had more ACEs.
The links between ACES and medical costs were stronger for women than men. This may
be due to the high number of ACEs they reported or because some continue to suffer
abuse as adults, according to the study.
Chronic illness and emotional distress both impacted the links between ACEs and health
care costs and authors stressed the importance of interventions to prevent ACEs.
“This confluence of financial burden and debt combined with the higher prevalence
of chronic physical and mental health conditions suggest that the health and financial
tolls of early childhood adversity are compounding,” they wrote, “with the worsening
of financial health likely to imperil physical health, and vice versa, in a self-perpetuating