Dealing with child abuse could save $9 billion

THE Abbott government could save between $6.8 billion and $9.1 billion every year by addressing the long-term impacts of childhood abuse and trauma, new research shows.

A report by Pegasus Economics for Adults Surviving Child Abuse shows the government could not only save the funds but potentially better address key social problems affecting as many as 5 million Australians.

The report has quantified the impacts of four types of unresolved childhood trauma in adults: alcohol abuse, mental illness, obesity and suicide/attempted suicide,

It estimated the average cost of alcohol abuse on Australian society was $4983 per capita, while mental illness costs were about $7680 for each person.

Drawing on 4000 calls to ASCA's hotline, royal commission research and overseas studies, the report forms part of the group's pre-budget submission to Treasurer Joe Hockey.

ASCA president Dr Cathy Kezelman, AM, said the report showed a relationship between childhood trauma and its effects later in life, revealing how much such social problems cost the nation.

"What we're proposing is taking a medium- to long-term look at the structural budget problem and start to address these issues (such as alcohol abuse) and invest at the cause of them," Dr Kezelman said.

"Yes, it does require a different approach than having a reactive, crisis-driven response, but there's ample evidence that some of the biggest issues, some of the most expensive problems, are repercussions of childhood trauma and abuse."

Dr Kezelman said the report revealed the impacts of some "five million Australian adults who are unable to realise their full potential".

She said the costs of the effects of childhood trauma in the long-term would be better spent on early intervention, better training for doctors and psychologists to identify "underlying issues" and wider "systemic reforms", such as those being considered by the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Abuse.The cost of the symptoms of childhood abuse, per Australian, every year:

Alcohol abuse: $4983

Mental illness: $7686

Obesity: $6042

Suicide or attempted suicide: $5281

Source: Pegasus Economics report for ASCA.

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