ACEs and Childhood Trauma May Be Robbing You of Years of Your Life

ACEs is a silent epidemic that affects families and communities. It is damaging to the health of our nation, and it is time we come together to bring awareness to its effects.

Childhood trauma affects one in three kids in America. And that’s just one generation. As kids grow up with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), they are at a higher risk for mental health issues and addiction, and they are more likely to grow up to be parents with ACEs. Thus, the cycle of trauma continues.

The impact of childhood trauma on adult health is well-documented. A direct link has been established between adverse childhood experiences and adult chronic health conditions and risk behaviors, both physical and mental, including drug and alcohol abuse, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, depression, and suicide.

In the United States alone, adverse childhood experiences put at least 150,000 people into emergency rooms and cause approximately $124 billion per year in health care costs and lost productivity. However, ACEs are completely preventable. By listening to children and understanding the signs of ACEs, we can help break the cycle, prevent future ACEs, and save billions of dollars each year in health care costs.

This blog will help us better understand what adverse childhood experiences are, what the effects of ACEs are on our population, and how we can help our community.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs?

We define adverse childhood experiences as difficult or harmful experiences in childhood, like abuse or neglect. To elaborate, an ACE is an extremely negative or harmful event or series of events experienced before the age of eighteen. Today, most people in the United States have experienced one or more ACEs. The effects they have on our society are far-reaching, and include mental and physical health issues, substance abuse, infant mortality, and incarceration. 

There are 10 Original Types of ACEs in Three Categories:

  1. Abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional)
  2. Neglect (physical and emotional)
  3. Household Challenges (divorce, incarceration, substance abuse, domestic violence, or mental illness)


Adverse childhood experiences are not limited to abuse or neglect. They also include the illness or death of a family member or any other loss, natural disasters, war, homelessness, and any other events. They also include dysfunction or witnessing others being abused or neglected.

Adverse childhood experiences can also affect an individual in multiple ways. ACEs can leave a mark on our body and mind, and we can carry some into adulthood. It may cause difficulties in the brain, digestive or immune systems, affecting learning and overall function.

What is your ACE score? Take the quiz and determine your score.

What are The Long-Term Effects of ACEs on Health?

How do early childhood traumas impact our mental and physical health? Children with ACEs are more likely to develop illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, when they reach adulthood. They are also more likely to experience mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. These problems then lead to serious health conditions and premature death.

Studies have shown that high ACEs scores predict many physical and mental illnesses later in life. People who have one or more adverse childhood experiences are more likely to have mental and physical health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. People with high ACEs score are two times more likely to be obese and two times more likely to become depressed when they reach old age. These illnesses are then significantly correlated with an increased mortality rate.

More Effects of ACEs

Children with ACEs are more likely to have a difficult time adjusting to school and are more likely to have trouble in social situations and at school. They may have difficulty establishing friendships.

These children’s school grades will probably be lower and they will be less likely to go to college. They may avoid getting married. They will have higher rates of unemployment and substance abuse disorders.

They may engage in early sexual activity and pregnancy. Child molesters and criminals may victimize them. They will more often be arrested and jailed. They are also more likely to commit suicide.

Reduce the Harmful Effects of ACEs

How can we reduce the potential harmful effects of adverse childhood experiences and prevent people from being placed in stressful situations that can have adverse effects when they are growing up? Raising awareness of ACEs is not enough.

There need to be measures put in place to prevent these experiences in the future. The best way to solve the problem of adverse childhood experiences is to prevent these events before they happen. It’s time to talk about and act upon the problem of ACEs.

Abuse, one category of adverse childhood experiences, is preventable with education, parent training, and making resources known and available within communities. There also has to be low-cost counseling and therapy for adults with high ACE scores.

As a society, we have to talk about adverse childhood experiences , start educating teachers, parents, and our children on what ACEs are, identify early childhood programs to stop kids from experiencing these events, and work on prevention for high-risk populations.

We also need to view chronic health illnesses and conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, as potential symptoms from experiences that are hidden deep within the hearts and minds of children and adults who have experienced multiple ACEs.

The ACE study published by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente in 1997 study examined the connection between adverse childhood experiences and negative health outcomes of a person’s life.

The study found that the more adverse childhood experiences you’ve experienced, the more likely you are to have a variety of poor health outcomes. If you have experienced ACEs, you are more likely to be obese, have a poor immune response, use drugs and alcohol, have diabetes, as well as be arrested and commit a crime.

The study has its origins in an obesity clinic run by Dr. Vincent Felitti, chief of Kaiser Permanente’s Department of Preventive Medicine in San Diego, CA in 1985.

Dr. Felitti discovered that many of the participants in the obesity program had been sexually abused as children, which triggered their weight gain as a deterrent against the abuse. This discovery led to the larger ACE study and the connection between adverse childhood experiences and long-term physical and mental health issues in adults.


It’s time we insist doctors treat patients from a holistic healing perspective and align the treatment of physical illness with the emotional and mental health issues that triggered the disease in the first place. That is how we can reduce ACEs meaningfully and help improve individual and community life.

Millions of people all over the world are suffering from chronic illnesses that began with extreme trauma in their childhood. We must make adverse childhood experiences a top priority as ACE exposure is now a serious public health concern.

The ACEs don’t just create a life that’s harder for the individual; they create a legacy that’s harder for the next generation–the legacy of suffering that lives on. It’s time to break the cycle of suffering.

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