Adverse Childhood Experiences: What are they and how are they linked to my health as an adult?

Exploring the Relationship between Childhood Trauma and Public Health


Most of us experience some sort of stress as a child. Many times we’re pushed to keep our grades up, to participate in ALL of the extracurriculars, and we struggle to make friends and fit in, all while trying to figure out who the heck we are. Some of that stress is normal, and it prepares us for managing stress later on as adults.

But there are other types of stress that many children experience that aren’t good, and these can have long-lasting implications. The people behind the ACEs survey have identified a set of Adverse Childhood Experiences that include traumatic or stressful events that are linked to issues with physical and mental health later on as adults. Keep reading to learn more about what ACES are and how they impact us.

So what are Adverse Childhood Experiences?

You would probably assume that these include things like childhood physical or sexual abuse or childhood neglect, and you’d be right. These are all on the list. But there are other things, too, including:

• Growing up in a family in which domestic violence was present
• Having a parent(s) who used or abused drugs or alcohol
• Having a parent(s) who had a mental illness
• Having parents who were separated or divorced
• One or more parents were incarcerated

But how does this impact us once we’re older? Well, the folks who conducted the study found that the more of these experiences one has as a child, the higher the risk for that person developing ongoing health problems as an adult. They even found that people who had a score of 6 or higher live 20 years less. The higher your ACES score, the more likely you are to develop problems with substance use (drugs and alcohol), smoking, being physically inactive, and missing work. Other physical and mental health conditions which could be impacted include:

• Heart and liver disease
• Increased risk for depression
• Obesity and diabetes
• Increased risk for attempting suicide
• Stroke
• Lung Disease
• Cancer

Want to know your score?  Click here  and you’ll be able to answer 10 quick questions. Add the total of your YES responses to find your ACE score. Something important to keep in mind is that while this is a helpful tool in determining a link between childhood trauma and health issues, this is not a one-size-fits-all instrument. Not everyone who scores high on the ACES survey will have these health issues or a decreased life expectancy. There are other factors, such as having a positive relationship with at least one person outside the home, which decrease the risk for negative health implications.

If you did score high and are concerned that some of these childhood experiences might be impacting you as an adult today, you may benefit from reaching out to your healthcare physician and/or a mental health therapist. Speaking to a professional can help you understand what happened and help you work through it, thereby decreasing risk for future complications and improving your quality of life.

If you have questions or would like to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation, please call Danni at 832-648-2321.

17047 El Camino Real, STE 215
Houston, TX 77058

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