Childhood Trauma Linked to Poor Health

We know there are many things that contribute to poor health: smoking, bad diet, sleep deprivation, a lack of exercise. But did you know that exposure to traumatic events as a child also contributes to poor health later in life?

Childhood trauma has been linked to things like cancer, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Studies are increasingly showing us that things like physical, verbal, and sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, and family instability (substance abuse, death or divorce, domestic violence, incarceration, mental illness) are intrinsically tied to your general health and well-being.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), such as those listed above, can stop a child’s brain from developing properly and increases the likelihood of chronic disease, mental illness, substance abuse, and violence. The ACE study found that more than four ACEs increases the chance of suicide by 1,200 percent. “People with high ACE scores are more likely to be violent, to have more marriages, more broken bones, more drug prescriptions, more depression, and more autoimmune diseases. People with an ACE score of 6 or higher are at risk of their lifespan being shortened by 20 years.” (

Exposure to trauma is not an uncommon phenomenon. In fact, one in four children in the US will be exposed to at least one ACE before their 16th birthday, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Furthermore, if a child has one ACE, there’s an 87% chance that they have two or more, according to the ACE study.

As with other things that are tied to poor health, the more exposure you have to trauma, the higher your chances of poor physical and mental health. The good news? Children are resilient and professionals are recognizing these implications and have found ways to counter the negative consequences of trauma.

CFS’ Trauma Assessment and Treatment Center exists for this purpose. The Center provides comprehensive trauma assessments and trauma-informed treatment for children and youth who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Behavioral health, medical, and occupational therapy disciplines are brought together under one roof to help children coping with trauma. Assessments examine the whole child to determine their strengths and areas of need.

Children referred for comprehensive trauma assessments are in crisis. They are struggling significantly in school, at home, and in their community. For children in foster care, they may be at risk of losing their current placement or are being considered for residential treatment because their behavior is so challenging for their caregivers to manage. Trauma-informed practices have proven successful in reducing problem behaviors, allowing kids to improve their health and wellness and reach their full potential. Trauma-informed services educate and include all stakeholders engaged with a child – parents, caregivers, schools, the courts – and gives them the tools needed to increase resilience, improve functioning, and reduce problem behaviors.

We recognize the need to create a connected, trauma-informed system that will increase the capacity of all stakeholders to better serve traumatized and at-risk children and adolescents in a comprehensive fashion. CFS is positioned to become one of Michigan’s foremost sources for trauma assessment and treatment of children.

To learn more about CFS’ Trauma Assessment and Treatment Center and ways you can help, call (231) 946-8975 or email

To learn more about trauma and its effects, visit or