Date of Award
Master of Physician Assistant Studies
Physician Assistant Education
One of the most significant aspects of healthcare that is interwoven among complaints and their management, no matter the specialty, is mental health. The full spectrum and severity of mental health conditions is important, but one area that every member of society can relate to is stress. The mere existence of being a human confounded with the everyday demands of society creates a recipe for people of all ages and backgrounds to feel stress and anxiety at some point in their lives. Stress can evolve from an individual’s family dynamic, demands of one’s profession, societal position, sexuality, among many other realms of life. However, stress and anxiety are two elements of mental health that are not often considered when thinking of the pediatric population. Many would consider the lives of young children to be relatively stress-free, compared to adulthood. Although children may face some social anxiety navigating the world, one would consider common stressors in adulthood such as bills, income or deadlines to be absent in children. This perception, while in some ways is true, does not consider the delicate nature of brain development during crucial young ages, and the implications this may have for when a child eventually becomes an adult.
When considering all the new experiences a child must navigate, especially if being raised in an environment that may be more chaotic than most, the chaos alone can actually induce higher levels of stress for a longer period of time. Furthermore, high levels of stress during this crucial development period can actually alter cellular structure of the brain and can have a negative impact on health in adulthood. This review examines how mental and physical health are influenced by exposure to a high number of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) compared to a low number of ACEs. Much of the literature available on this topic is observational, and thus, susceptible to underreporting of experiences, especially in view of the sensitive nature of the questions asked in these types of studies. However, identifying patients with high ACEs early is essential so that clinicians can provide treatment during a child’s development, thus preventing poor physical and mental health outcomes in adulthood.
Dutton, Alison, "The Consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Health and Implications for the Future" (2019). Physician Assistant Capstones. 16.