Trauma, Toxic Stress & Health

Jan 17, 2018

When we hear the term trauma in the context of health, we often think of a trauma ward, or emergency room, for people who have have been in accidents. And it’s right that we should think of people with physical injuries, as The Encyclopedia of Healthcare Management notes the word trauma originated from the Greek word for wound. However, emotional trauma can also have physical health effects. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Resilience Project, health problems, mental health issues, and substance abuse issues are just some of the common trends seen in older children and adults affected by the emotional trauma associated with toxic stress. The six toxic stressors listed by the American Medical Association are being exposed to or being the victim of abuse, neglect, mental illness, substance abuse, violence and poverty. “Toxic stress can change your hormones and other systems that interfere with your ability to both learn and behave appropriately,” said Dr. Dreyer, director of the developmental-behavioral pediatric division at the NYU School of Medicine.

In the 2015 article, “How Healthy Are Our Children?” authors Sara Rosenbaum and Robert Blume assert that while the infectious diseases that once killed huge numbers of children have largely been conquered, our children are still at risk because toxic stress can cause them to grow up to be less healthy, less productive adults. Research suggests government policies and social programs that promote food and housing security, as well as having trauma-informed educators and health providers could reduce the health disparities caused by trauma and toxic stress.