Childhood adversity to be discussed at forum
The Sector > Quality > Professional development > Children who live with adversity are 10 times more likely to have long-term health issues

Children who live with adversity are 10 times more likely to have long-term health issues

by Freya Lucas

June 16, 2023

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s Centre for Research Excellence in Childhood Adversity and Mental Health and Beyond Blue are hosting an adversity research symposium in Melbourne. 


More than half of children in Australia will face adversity by the age of 11 and are up to 10 times more likely to have long-term health problems than their peers, according to researchers. The symposium brings together leaders in the health, education, social care and justice system, along with lived-experience advisors, focusing on children from birth to 12 years.  


Childhood adversity spans maltreatment (physical, emotional or sexual abuse), household dysfunction (parental mental illness, family substance abuse and domestic violence) and societal issues (racism and discrimination). 


With cost of living pressures increasing, Murdoch Children’s Professor Harriet Hiscock said, more families are struggling to make ends meet, and exposure to childhood adversity can have harmful effects on mental and physical health throughout a person’s life, she said.


Professor Hiscock will co-host the event with Professor Anthony Jorm, with researchers presenting their findings and experiences from working and speaking with families at child and family health and social care hubs to gauge their experiences and life challenges.


“Addressing childhood adversity should be a major focus as families, more than ever, are facing tough financial decisions,” Professor Hiscock said.


“The accumulation of multiple adversities in childhood can be particularly detrimental and crippling and has a stronger effect on health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, obesity, cancer and heart disease than any one adversity experienced in isolation.”


“We have found that children from low socio-economic backgrounds and minority ethnic and linguistic groups are also more likely to be affected by adversity. These families face a range of sources of disadvantage, including structural barriers to accessing education, health services and meaningful employment, which shape their disproportionate exposure to adversity.”


Professor Hiscock said addressing adversity early was a significant opportunity to promote health over the lifespan and especially reduce health inequalities experienced by marginalised groups of children.


“Given how common childhood adversity is in Australia and its effects on child and subsequently adult mental health and wellbeing, preventing or reducing adversity in children should be key priorities. Doing so could avert a substantial proportion of the population being burdened by mental illness.”


Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said it was vital to find ways of preventing mental health conditions, especially when half emerge by the age of 14 years.


“We hope the symposium will allow us to not only better understand what many children and families are experiencing, but also identify what policy makers and service providers can do earlier, and differently, to prevent and reduce the impact of childhood adversity and improve lives in the long run.”

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button