The Real Impact of Child Abuse on Life Span

As part of a routine checkup, health providers keep track of factors that can profoundly influence a person’s longevity and quality of life, from monitoring cholesterol and blood glucose levels to inquiring about diet and physical activity. In light of this information, we offer clinical advice based on the latest science, and many patients do quite well.

However, most practitioners fail to ask one pivotal question that could make an extraordinary difference in the health and survival of our patients, including how long patients live. That question: “As a child or adolescent, did you ever experience abuse of any kind, including emotional, verbal, physical or sexual trauma?”

A patient’s past history of abuse and the associated trauma are infrequently discussed in a medical setting. This is partly because many health providers are not well trained in inquiring about and discussing this with patients, and often providers aren’t aware of the significance of abuse and trauma in regards to a patient’s overall health and well-being. Patients, too, may not be fully aware of how a history of abuse negatively alters their mental and physical health, and how important it is to seek therapy to recover from the trauma.

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