Having traumatic experiences as a child puts a person at higher risk for negative health effects later in life. A 2019 Center for Disease Control (CDC) report verifies that adults who had experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are at higher risk of dying from five of the top ten leading causes of death. ACEs include: experiencing abuse (physical, sexual or emotional), witnessing violence, physical or emotional neglect, divorce, substance abuse, mental illness, and a parent in jail. High exposure to ACEs results in long-term physical and emotional harm.
Trauma has Adverse Effects upon Health
“We now know that adverse childhood experiences have a significant impact on an individual’s future health.” “Preventing traumatic experiences in childhood and initiating key interventions when they do occur will lessen long-term health consequences and benefit the physical and emotional well-being of individuals into adulthood.” (CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D.)
The Impact of ACEs Adds up over Time
The CDC report examined the associations between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and 14 negative outcomes. CDC analyzed data from 25 states that included ACE questions in the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) from 2015 through 2017. State survey data were used to estimate long-term health and social outcomes in adults that contribute to the leading causes of illness and death and reduced access to life opportunities.
“In 2017, the 10 leading causes of death (heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide) remained the same as in 2016. Causes of death are ranked according to number of deaths. The 10 leading causes accounted for 74.0% of all deaths in the United States in 2017.”
After analyzing data from more than 144,000 adults the CDC report found:
- ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental health, substance misuse, and reduced educational and occupational achievement.
- Preventing ACEs has the potential to reduce the leading causes of death such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes, and suicide.
- ACEs prevention can have a positive impact on education and employment levels.
“In 2017, 21 million cases of depression, 1.9 million cases of heart disease, and 2.5 million cases of obesity were linked to ACEs. Adults reporting the highest level of ACEs exposure had increased odds of having chronic health conditions, depression, current smoking, heavy drinking, and socioeconomic challenges like current unemployment, compared to those reporting no ACEs. In total, 60% of Americans experience at least one adverse experience during childhood. And 15.6% experienced four or more different types.” (CDC Report)
The more ACEs a person has, the higher their risk for negative outcomes, which will limit opportunities for their whole life and contribute to early disease factors. A different 1995-1997 CDC report verifies that 70-80 percent of autoimmune diseases are linked to a high ACEs score.
ACEs Divide into Personal and Familial Traumas
- Physical abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional neglect
- Physical neglect
- Domestic violence
- Incarcerated family member
- Divorce or abandonment
- Mental Illness
This one wide-ranging study found that individuals with an ACES score of four or higher are:
- 1.8 times as likely to smoke cigarettes
- 1.9 times as likely to become obese
- 2.4 times as likely to experience ongoing anxiety
- 2.5 times as likely to experience panic reactions
- 3.6 times as likely to be depressed
- 3.6 times as likely to qualify as promiscuous
- 6.6 times as likely to engage in early-life sexual intercourse
- 7.2 times as likely to become alcoholic
- 11.1 times as likely to become intravenous drug users
Adults with Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) before the age of 18 tend to have a lower likelihood of depression or poor mental health along with a higher probability of healthier interpersonal relationships.
- Was able to talk with the family about my feelings
- Felt that my family stood by me during difficult times
- Enjoyed participating in community traditions
- Felt a sense of belonging in high school
- Felt supported by friends
- Had at least two non-parent adults who took a genuine interest in me
- Felt safe and protected by an adult in my home
If someone had an ACEs score of 4 or more for Adverse Childhood Experiences, and if the same person also had a high number of Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs), these positive early life factors naturally lessen the negative effect of ACEs on health and wellness in adulthood.
A ten-item checklist of Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) can also be combined with the seven items from the Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) list above.
- At least one caregiver with whom you felt safe
- At least one good friend
- Beliefs that gave you comfort
- Enjoyment at school
- At least one teacher that cared
- Good neighbors
- An adult (not a parent/caregiver or person from #1) who could provide you with support or advice
- Opportunities to have a good time
- Ability to like yourself or feel comfortable with yourself
- Predictable home routine, such as regular meals and a regular bedtime
Concepts for Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
- Strengthen financial security
- Normalize work schedule
- Strengthen parenting skills
- Build conflict resolution skills
- Increase educational opportunities
- Reinforce social norms
- Implement safety measures
- High-quality childcare
- Healthy relationship skill program
- Mentoring program for youth
- Family-centered treatment for substance disorders
- Community involvement
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Click here for detailed information for preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). There are a variety of modalities for releasing emotional trauma. Meditation and prayer are at the top of the list. Tuning fork and sound therapy also release traumatic frequencies. Good nutrition supports the healing process within the body once emotional traumas are released. Overcoming childhood and adult traumas is certainly a very important component in a person’s well-being.
Now Living in Joy Despite Having 10/10 ACEs
Take a few minutes to view a lecture by Martha Londagin, a joyful survivor of a traumatic childhood filled with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).