A longitudinal, epidemiological study of over 17,000 adults by American companies Kaiser Permanent and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention studied adverse childhood experiences (ACE) otherwise known as childhood trauma. Participants were recruited between 1995 and 1997 and continue to be monitored to measure mortality and morbidity rates.
Participants completed surveys to indicate the number of adverse childhood experiences they experienced when young, which included:
The study found that adults who have experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences had 4 to 12 fold increased health risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and suicide attempts. The more categories of ACE a person had been through, the more health risk factors and other risks in later life they encountered. Moreover ACE was common as approximately two-thirds of participants reported at least one ACE and 87% of those experienced more than one.
The above list is not exhaustive but provides some risk factors that can occur when a child has unhealthy life experiences. The study indicates the value of ensuring a healthy environment for children as it creates a healthier society.
The study sends an important message of what adversity when young can do when the child grows up, as well as the value of ensuring a healthy environment when raising children.
Below is the pyramid that illustrates how adverse childhood experiences influences health and lifestyle risks across the lifespan.
On a last note, I have noticed there are many online quizzes that help measure the amount of your ACE and your risk factors you may experience later in life. I would not endorse any as they may cause you unnecessary worries as there are many other factors that need to be considered, such as how you have coped when growing up (e.g., getting help or social support), and other positive life experiences which can help you build resilience.
Therefore, even though you may have been through adverse life experiences when young, you are not doomed to many risk factors. The support you received is key to a healthy life trajectory. Trauma-informed therapies are one way toward a healthy lifestyle after adverse childhood experiences.
Source: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html
Felitti, Vincent J et al (1998). Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine , 14(4 ), 245 - 258.
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