Preventable trauma in childhood costs north America and Europe US$ 1.3 trillion a year

WHO/Malin Bring

Every child should have every opportunity to live a healthy and meaningful life.

Jonathon Passmore, WHO/Europe

The findings of a new study on the life-course health consequences and associated annual costs of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) show that preventable trauma in childhood costs north America and the European Region US$ 1.3 trillion a year.

The article, published in the Lancet and co-authored by Dinesh Sethi and Jonathon Passmore, Programme Manager, Violence and Injury Prevention, WHO/Europe, looks at the legacy of ACEs and their societal financial impacts.
ACEs include being a victim of child maltreatment and being exposed to family violence, parental alcoholism or drug abuse, and other severe forms of stress while growing up. While it is just one component of ACE, it is estimated that 55 million children are subject to some form of violence and maltreatment each year in the WHO European Region alone.

ACEs have lifelong consequences for a person’s health and well-being. They are a major risk factor for psychiatric disorders and suicide, and have lifelong after effects, including depression anxiety disorders, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, aggression and violence towards others, risky sexual behaviours and post-traumatic stress disorders.

“Every child should have every opportunity to live a healthy and meaningful life,” says Jonathon. “By looking at the proportions of major risk factors for and causes of ill health that can be attributed to some form of trauma in childhood and the associated financial costs, we can demonstrate that tackling adversities in childhood is beneficial to both individuals and society as a whole.”

Prevention should be the focus for the Region. Just a 10% reduction in the prevalence of childhood trauma could equate to annual savings of US$ 105 billion.

The paper is a synthesis of multiple international studies on ACEs and economic analysis of their long-term impact on the health and productivity of victims as adults across the European Region and north America. The combined 23 studies draw data from 1.6 million individuals.