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Childhood experiences linked to long-term health outcomes

More than half of Minnesotans have had an adverse experience in their childhood that could have a life-long impact on their health and well-being, according to data released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The Minnesota Department of Health surveyed 13,520 Minnesota adults in 2011 and found that 55 percent of them reported having at least one adverse childhood experience such as divorce or separation of their parents; an incarcerated household member; a mentally ill parent; domestic violence against a parent; a household member with an alcohol or substance abuse problem, or verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.

"The significance of this study is that it shows that these experiences, which can significantly affect the health and well-being of adults decades later, are much more common in Minnesota than one might expect," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota health commissioner. "Our task now is to learn from this information and use these insights to better identify and support children and families at risk."

The four most common adverse experiences reported by adults include verbal abuse at 28 percent, a drinking problem in the household at 24 percent, mental illness in the household 17 percent, and physical abuse at 16 percent.