Considering the long-term effects of child abuse in South Carolina as a health care crisis
In 2015, 14,856 children in South Carolina were victims of abuse. Of that total, more than 11,400 were first-time victims, but as instances of abuse and neglect increase across the state, that likely won’t be the case for long. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that the number of child abuse victims in South Carolina jumped by more than 30 percent between 2011-2015. And while many people may have an understanding of the mental health issues that linger long after abuse, the relationship between lifelong physical health problems and adverse childhood experiences often goes overlooked.
A recent study completed by members of the South Carolina Rural Health Research Center, Children’s Trust of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina set out to document the reported instances of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in South Carolina and their relationship to health problems during adulthood. ACEs include instances of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as household dysfunction such as exposure to divorce and separation, domestic violence, incarceration, mental illness, and substance abuse. What they found is that the interrelatedness of these adverse experiences during childhood often translates to major health problems, many of which plague the state.
“We know now from this first study that there is a connection between ACEs and negative health — both poor physical health and poor mental health — in South Carolina residents. We also know from this research that the more ACEs you have and the increased exposures you have, the greater the likelihood of negative health, both physical and mental health outcomes in adulthood,” says Elizabeth Crouch, assistant professor at USC’s Department of Health Services Policy and Management and researcher with the South Carolina Rural Health Research Center.
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