The Toll of Childhood Adversity

Anxiety in Children

*We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links. Please see our disclosure at the bottom of this page to learn more.

A scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) has added to the evidence that traumatic events in childhood can have a powerful effect not just on people’s future mental health, but on their physical health—specifically heart health.

Published in Circulation in December 2017, the statement summarizes the latest research on how childhood traumas—such as violence at home, sexual abuse, and bullying—can lead to negative cardiometabolic outcomes across the life course, such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and even heart attacks. One especially influential study, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, actually showed that the greater number of specific childhood adverse experiences one has (up to a certain threshold), the greater the odds for heart disease later in life. This positive relationship persisted even after the ACE study investigators controlled for unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, such as heavy drinking or smoking, as well as socioeconomic status. Low socioeconomic status is independently associated with a host of health problems, including cardiovascular disease.

How might childhood trauma influence heart disease independent of other risk factors? The current proposed model is that childhood adversity can increase inflammation, cortisol, and other hormonal changes in the body that in turn contribute to hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and even clogging of blood vessels. Of course, childhood trauma can also have a profound negative effect on an individual’s mental health, which raises the risk of unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, and substance use—all of which then influence cardiovascular risk.

The AHA concludes that more research is still needed into the mechanisms of heart disease and what types of interventions in young people exposed to trauma might lead to better outcomes. But the statement sends an important message by acknowledging that traumas in a person’s early years can have literally heartbreaking consequences.



Hi, I'm Vicky. Welcome to my blog!

I started my career as a therapist, and soon I became interested in children's psychology. I've always known about the importance of mental health, but over time I realized most of our adult disorders, particularly anxiety, has deep roots in childhood. I believe that's when we have to act, so we can help our children to become happy adults.

In this blog, I've compiled articles to clarify some of the asumptions of anxiety in children, and share some tips and advice for parents on how to best help them to manage it.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you find something to help you along the way.



Teens and Mental Health

Teens and Mental Health

If you have a teenager in your life, or simply recall your own adolescence, you know it’s an emotionally treacherous time under the best of circumstances. But for millions of pre-teens and teens in the U.S., the adolescent years bring problems that go beyond the...

read more