More than half of Minnesotans report "adverse" experiences as kids

More than half of Minnesotans report "adverse" experiences as kids
Tatiana Craine, via potzuyoko, reckless_sniper, emagineart on Flickr

People tend to think, or at least hope, that most kids have trauma-free childhoods. But a Minnesota Department of Health survey released yesterday afternoon shows that the opposite is more common.

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55 percent of Minnesota adults report at least one "adverse" childhood experience, an umbrella term that covers everything from parents divorcing to domestic violence or abuse to a family member with a substance problem. What's more, the study found that this more-than-half continue to have worse outcomes than the 45 percent of Minnesotans who didn't suffer major disruptions in their early years.

The most common negative experience, they survey found, is verbal abuse, which 28 percent of Minnesotans experienced. 24 percent dealt with a drinking problem in their home, 17 percent with mental illness in the house, and 16 percent with physical abuse. Over half of the people who reported these situations experienced more than one of them.

More frightening is what these Minnesotans' experiences as kids predicted about their current situations. The 55 percent who had to deal with these things are more likely to not have a high school diploma, to be unemployed and unmarried, to rent their home, and to worry about making rent and buying food. For instance, 19 percent of people who reported five or more "adverse" childhood experiences rated their health "fair or poor," compared to 9 percent of adults without similar memories. They were also 2.5 times more likely to be stressed about affording shelter or meals.

Researchers have been examining these "adverse" experiences -- defined as anything that causes "toxic levels of stress or trauma before age 18" -- for more than two decades, but this survey, which was conducted in 2011, is the first to look at Minnesota specifically. Our results matched up with other states'.

Though the numbers are stark, the health officials tasked with responding to the data hope to use it constructively. "The hopeful part of [adverse childhood experiences] research is that it is stimulating communities to take action to protect children early in their lives," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, state Commissioner of Health, in a news release. "We will use this information to launch similar efforts here in Minnesota."

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