Another sign of the troubled times and the consequences of long duration of economic hardship comes from a new study from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) which detected a significant increase in hospital admissions of children over the past decade for serious physical abuse.
The full study, "Local macroeconomic trends and hospital admissions from child abuse, 2000 to 2009," was just published in the journal Pediatrics. More information about the study is available through the PolicyLab site.
The researchers at CHOP found a strong relationship between the rates of child physical abuse and local mortgage foreclosures, considered a hallmark of the recent recession in America.
What’s notable about the study is that the findings contradict national child welfare data showing a decline in child physical abuse over the same 10-year period.
Study lead author, Joanne Wood, MD, MSHP, an attending physician at CHOP and researcher at PolicyLab commented: "It’s well known that economic stress has been linked to an increase in child physical abuse, so we wanted to get to the bottom of contrasting reports by formally studying hospital data on a larger scale."
Study findings are alarming:
- Overall physical abuse increased by 0.79 percent
- Traumatic brain injury increased by 3 percent per year between 2000 and 2009
- Overall injury rates fell by 0.8 percent per year over the same period
- Each 1 percent increase in 90-day mortgage delinquencies over a 1-year period was associated with:
- a 3 percent increase in hospital admissions resulting from child physical abuse
- and a 5 percent increase due to traumatic brain injury suspected to be child abuse
"As the foreclosure crisis is expected to continue in the near future, these results highlight the need to better understand the stress that housing insecurity places on families and communities so that we can better support them during difficult times," said Dr. Wood, who is also research director of Safe Place: Center for Child Protection and Health at CHOP.
Lasting Societal Impact of Child Abuse
In addition to individual consequences, child abuse has long-lasting societal impact. That’s according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These consequences result in an increased reliance on social services and public assistance, everything from foster care and Medicaid, to the more indirect costs associated with higher rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, and criminal activity.
"A study like this cannot tell us what stressors may be impacting an individual family, but can illustrate the toll that the recent recession may be having on families, in general, in this country," said David Rubin, MD, MSCE, senior author of the study, attending physician at CHOP and Director of PolicyLab.