NASET News Alert

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study

May 18, 2006

Research Findings Now Available

May 18, 2006:  The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted on the links between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. As a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) members undergoing a comprehensive physical examination provided detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. Over 17,000 members chose to participate. To date, over 30 scientific articles have been published and over 100 conference and workshop presentations have been made.

Childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to other traumatic stressors which was termed adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are common. Almost two-thirds of the study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one in five reported three or more ACE. The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems. The ACE Study uses the ACE Score, which is a count of the total number of ACE respondents reported. The ACE Score is used to assess the total amount of stress during childhood and has demonstrated that as the number of ACE increase, the risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:

  • alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • depression
  • fetal death
  • health-related quality of life
  • illicit drug use
  • ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • liver disease
  • risk for intimate partner violence
  • multiple sexual partners
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • smoking
  • suicide attempts
  • unintended pregnancies
     

In addition, the ACE Study has also demonstrated that the ACE Score has a strong and graded relationship to health-related behaviors and outcomes during childhood and adolescence including early initiation of smoking, sexual activity, and illicit drug use, adolescent pregnancies, and suicide attempts. Finally, as the number of ACE increases the number of co-occurring or “co-morbid” conditions increases.

The ACE Study findings suggest that these experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. Progress in preventing and recovering from the nation's worst health and social problems is likely to benefit from the understanding that many of these problems arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.

To learn more about the major findings of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, data, statistics, and future directions, visit http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/ace/about.htm

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