Children experience stress even if they don’t have all the responsibilities of adults. Adverse experiences in childhood can impact both short- and long-term health. According to the Nemours Foundation, sources of childhood stress include
- being involved in too many activities;
- having too little play or relaxation time;
- having parents who frequently fight and don’t get along;
- having an ill or dying relative;
- experiencing divorce or other family changes;
- seeing disturbing images on TV of war, terrorism or natural disasters that create fears about their own safety or the safety of those they love; and
- losing a loved one.
Exposure to adverse childhood events is associated with an increased risk of premature death during adulthood, according to a study published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2009; 37 , 389–96). Researchers gathered data about exposure to adverse childhood events, among other issues, from 17,337 adults aged 18 and over during 1995–1997. Adverse childhood events included being emotionally, physically and/or sexually abused; witnessing domestic violence; experiencing parental separation or divorce; and growing up in a household where members were mentally ill, were substance abusers or were sent to prison. Data analysis showed that people with six or more adverse childhood events died nearly 20 years earlier on average than people who did not have any such adverse events.
For more information about childhood health issues and tips on how to help children cope with stress, go to www.nemours.org.