Trauma and Violence

Published on: May 27, 2020
Trauma and violence are widespread, harmful, and costly public health concerns. They have no boundaries with regard to age, gender, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Trauma is a common experience for adults and children in American communities, and it is especially common in the lives of people with mental and substance use disorders. For this reason, the need to address trauma is increasingly seen as an important part of effective behavioral health care.



A lifetime history of sexual abuse among women in childhood or adulthood ranges from 15% to 25%. The prevalence of domestic violence among women in the United States ranges from 9% to 44%, depending on definitions.

The cost of intimate partner violence, which disproportionately affects women and girls, was estimated to be $8.3 billion in 2003. This total includes the costs of medical care, mental health services, and lost productivity.

In a 2008 study by RAND, 18.5% of returning veterans reported symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression.

In the United States, 18.9% of men and 15.2% of women reported a lifetime experience of a natural disaster.

The effects of traumatic events place a heavy burden on individuals, families, and communities. Although many people who experience a traumatic event will go on with their lives without lasting negative effects, others will have difficulties and experience traumatic stress reactions. How someone responds to a traumatic experience is personal. If there is a strong support system in place, little or no prior traumatic experiences, and if the individual has many resilient qualities, it may not affect his or her mental health.

Research has shown that traumatic experiences are associated with both behavioral health and chronic physical health conditions, especially those traumatic events that occur during childhood. Substance use (such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, and taking drugs), mental health problems (such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD), and other risky behaviors (such as self-injury and risky sexual encounters) have been linked with traumatic experiences. Because these behavioral health concerns can present challenges in relationships, careers, and other aspects of life, it is important to understand the nature and impact of trauma and to explore healing.

In addition, traumatic experiences can contribute to chronic physical health conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

As a public health priority, focusing on trauma is one of SAMHSA’s six Strategic Initiatives. Specifically, SAMHSA aims to reduce the pervasive, harmful, and costly health impact of violence and trauma by integrating trauma-informed approaches throughout behavioral health systems. For more information, visit SAMHSA’s Trauma-Informed Approach and Trauma-Specific Interventions webpage.


Topics » Trauma and Violence. (2015, September 15). Retrieved from