Adverse Childhood Experiences Linked to Adult Health Conditions
New studies released by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC have confirmed that those who suffered from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are more susceptible to both physical and emotional health issues later in life.
It’s no surprise that there is a link between early childhood trauma and adult health conditions. When children experience stressors at a young age, their bodies are being hardwired to respond differently to stress for the rest of their lives. “Toxic stress,” or abuse or adversity experienced by children at a young age can heighten levels of stress in their developing bodies, and prime their system to be hyper-sensitive to stress as they age.
There are ways that families and communities can work together to prevent and intervene if a child is experiencing ACEs, and potentially lower the risk of developing dangerous health conditions that he or she may have much later in life.
What are ACEs?
ACEs are fairly common. About 60% of the general population has reported experiencing one or more before the age of 18, and eight percent of the population has experienced four or more.
- These experiences can include:
- Family Substance Abuse—such as an alcoholic or drug-dependent parent
- Parental Separation or Divorce
- Mental Illness in the household
- Physical Abuse Against the Mother
- Criminal Behavior—such as a parent becoming incarcerated
- Psychological, physical, or sexual abuse
Unfortunately, the more incidences of these traumas experienced by children under 18, the higher the risk of developing an adverse health condition later in life.
Link Between ACE and Disease
The studies done by Kaiser and the CDC show that as ACEs go up, so did the onset of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, COPD, and liver disease. Those with higher ACEs also have a higher risk of mental illnesses such as depression or are more likely to attempt suicide. In fact, those with four or more ACEs were 12 times more likely to commit suicide than those without any.
There is also an unfortunate correlation between ACEs and opioid addiction. 80% of those seeking treatment for opioid addiction had at least one form of childhood trauma. Additionally, as the number of traumatic childhood events increased, so did a person’s likelihood to abuse prescription drugs.
Why the link?
When someone experiences a trauma early in life, they are essentially rewiring their system to receive stress differently. It is the Central Nervous System that controls stress in our bodies, and it closely interacts with our immune, hormone, metabolic, and clotting systems. The traumatic experiences become embedded in the bodies of children, altering their physiology across all of these systems, which changes cellular and systemic function as they age. Fundamentally, ACEs are changing the way that the body processes stress, causing it to function differently than a body that has not experienced an ACE.
Resilience can Combat Stress
The best way to ensure that children do not experience ACEs is to provide a safe and nurturing home environment. Families can also triumph over these experiences by understanding how children can be impacted by these events and considering counseling if there have been traumatic events in the child’s life.
Additionally, seeking out community support and resources for parenting and abuse are crucial for families who want to rebuild after traumatic events.
Make sure that your children do not grow up with a higher risk of adult diseases by being a consistent support to your family. If emotional or physical abuse has already occurred or has been a part of the home environment, make sure that your children have support from extended family, friends, teachers, and mentors. By building a culture that is compassionate toward each other, we can do a lot to combat the negative effects of ACEs.
If you, or someone you know, is going through a family matter such as a separation or divorce, it’s essential to seek the advice of an experienced family attorney. Your attorney can help guide you through the legal process and point you toward resources for your family.
Study shows childhood trauma related to chronic health conditions. (2018, April 04). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.nrtoday.com/news/health/study-shows-childhood-trauma-related-to-chronic-health-conditions/article_667a7b06-0653-5961-8eac-68fb4f0f2b7a.html
Got Your ACE Score? (2017, June 02). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/
Madigan, S. (2018, April 05). How compassion can triumph over toxic childhood trauma. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-04-compassion-triumph-toxic-childhood-trauma.html
Paull, S. (2016, October 25). HOMEBLOGACES-INFORMED INTERVENTIONS THAT WORK IN EARLY CHILDHOOD ACEs-informed Interventions that work in early childhood. Retrieved April 5, 2018, from http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/aces-informed-interventions-that-work-in-early-childhood