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How Strongly Does ACE Affect One’s Physical and Mental Health?

 

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) leave different kinds and levels of mental or physical trauma on each individual.

Physical child abuse may leave kids needing the services of a reliable pediatric surgeon. Some children may need help from a facial plastic surgery specialist to address self-esteem issues caused by facial scars.

Some ACEs may require long-term therapy sessions. Despite their therapeutic benefits, the best essential oils for anxiety can only do so much when dealing with deep-seated emotional and psychological trauma.

ACEs take a toll on a child’s physical and mental health. They can also extend into adulthood and lead to higher risks of stress-related disorders.

Recognizing ACEs

ACEs are potentially traumatic events during the first 17 years of a child’s life(1). The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ACEs as stressful occurrences in a child’s life(2).

Some examples of ACEs include(3):

  • Child abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional)
  • Child neglect (physical and emotional)
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Parent divorce or separation
  • Mental illness of parents or household members
  • Alcoholism or substance abuse in the house
  • Having a family member in jail
  • Death of a family member

Economic hardships and the separation or divorce of a parent or guardian are two of the most common ACEs in the United States(4).

These stressful childhood events may cause prolonged effects that can lead to several health consequences.

Health Consequences of ACEs

Experiencing frequent, prolonged, or many traumatic childhood events without the appropriate adult support may cause toxic stress in children(5).

Toxic stress during childhood can disrupt brain development and affect its physical structure(6).

In turn, disrupted brain development increases the likelihood of physical, behavioral, and emotional problems.

The Effects of ACEs on Physical Health

Childhood adversities are associated with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol(7).

Excessive cortisol levels are linked to greater inflammatory reactions and lower immune responses(8).

It can explain why kids who went through ACEs may have a higher likelihood of developing childhood diseases, like asthma, dermatitis, and urinary tract infections(9).

Chronic stress may also raise an individual’s risk for developing autoimmune diseases(10).

Dysfunctional households and childhood abuse can increase the risk of chronic physical diseases by up to 81%(11).

Adults who had ACEs may develop long-term physical health consequences(12). ACEs increase adults’ likelihood of having cancer, chronic pulmonary disease, and stroke.

Individuals with at least four ACEs may develop the following conditions(13):

  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Poor self-rated health
  • Cancer
  • Heart diseases
  • Respiratory diseases

The Effects of ACEs on Mental Health

The undue stress that ACEs place on children can manifest into several different behavioral, neurological, and psychiatric disorders.

For example, childhood emotional abuse may increase the risk of developing a lifetime depressive disorder(14).

Severe childhood trauma raises the risk of other mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), self-harm or suicidal tendencies, and conduct problems.

ACEs may cause people to engage in risky behavior, exhibit heightened aggression or violence, and display difficulties in maintaining relationships(15).

Additionally, ACEs may lead to poor adult outcomes or decisions, like consuming alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana(16).

Childhood physical and psychological abuses are also linked to eating disorders and learning difficulties(17).

Anxiety and stress due to ACEs may cause sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, sleep paralysis, and nightmare distress(18).

Hampered physical brain development because of early life stress may alter the brain’s functional connectivity and cognitive function(19).

Studies suggested that heightened inflammatory response due to stress may cause schizophrenia(20).

Preventing ACEs

Although ACEs' physical and mental health effects can be severe and long-lasting, ACEs are preventable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that building and maintaining a good relationship with the family can prevent ACEs(21).

Supportive, safe, and stable relationships can serve as a buffer to toxic stress response(22). Children who grow up in nurturing environments are more likely to have fewer toxic stress markers and better physical and mental health outcomes.

The CDC notes that strong household financial security and family-friendly work policies can also help prevent ACEs(23).

Here are other ACE prevention tips and strategies:

  • Enrolling children in preschool enrichment programs and high-quality childcare. These programs can help increase a child’s physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development(24).
  • Encouraging children’s participation in mentoring programs helps develop their skills, academic success, and employment outcomes(25).
  • Engaging in after-school programs can strengthen a child’s leadership, behavioral, and academic skills(26).
  • Taking steps to change the social norms that promote violence(27).
  • Supporting public education campaigns and reducing corporal punishment to create a safer environment for children(28).

The CDC also suggests that raising the public’s awareness and perception of ACEs can help prevent them(29).

Raising awareness about ACEs and their causes can shift the responsibility from individuals to the entire community. This awareness can contribute to expanding and strengthening community-based solutions to prevent ACEs.

References

  1. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violencepr...n/aces/fastfact.html
  2. World Health Organization.Adverse Childhood Experiences International Questionnaire (ACE-IQ). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/violence_i...hood_experiences/en/
  3. Bauer, N. ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.or...ood-Experiences.aspx
  4. Sacks, V., Murphey, D, & Moore, K. (2014, July).Adverse Childhood Experiences: National and State Level Prevalence. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/wp...xperiences_FINAL.pdf
  5. Nelson, C. A., Scott, R. D., Bhutta, Z. A., Harris, N. B., Danese, A., & Samara, M. (2020). Adversity in childhood is linked to mental and physical health throughout life. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 371, m3048. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3048
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Morey, J. N., Boggero, I. A., Scott, A. B., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2015). Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. Current opinion in psychology, 5, 13–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.03.007
  9. Nelson, C. A., Scott, R. D., Bhutta, Z. A., Harris, N. B.,  et al. (2020). Op cit.
  10. Morey, J. N., Boggero, I. A., Scott, A. B., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2015). Op cit.
  11. Al-Shawi, A. F., & Lafta, R. K. (2015). Effect of adverse childhood experiences on physical health in adulthood: Results of a study conducted in Baghdad city. Journal of family & community medicine, 22(2), 78–84. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8229.155374
  12. Monnat, S. M., & Chandler, R. F. (2015). Long Term Physical Health Consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences. The Sociological quarterly, 56(4), 723–752. https://doi.org/10.1111/tsq.12107
  13. Hughes, K., Bellis, M. A., Hardcastle, K. A., Sethi, D., Butchart, A., Mikton, C., Jones, L., & Dunne, M. P. (2017). The effect of multiple adverse childhood experiences on health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet. Public health, 2(8), e356–e366. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30118-4
  14. Chapman, D. P., Whitfield, C. L., Felitti, V. J., Dube, S. R., Edwards, V. J., & Anda, R. F. (2004). Adverse childhood experiences and the risk of depressive disorders in adulthood. Journal of affective disorders, 82(2), 217–225. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2003.12.013
  15. Nelson, C. A., Scott, R. D., Bhutta, Z. A., Harris, N. B.,  et al. (2020). Op cit.
  16. Mersky, J. P., Topitzes, J., & Reynolds, A. J. (2013). Impacts of adverse childhood experiences on health, mental health, and substance use in early adulthood: A cohort study of an urban, minority sample in the U.S. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37(11), 917-925. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.07.011
  17. Nelson, C. A., Scott, R. D., Bhutta, Z. A., Harris, N. B.,  et al. (2020). Op cit.
  18. Kajeepeta, S., Gelaye, B., Jackson, C. L., & Williams, M. A. (2015). Adverse childhood experiences are associated with adult sleep disorders: a systematic review. Sleep medicine, 16(3), 320–330. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2014.12.013
  19. Nelson, C. A., Scott, R. D., Bhutta, Z. A., Harris, N. B.,  et al. (2020). Op cit.
  20. Morey, J. N., Boggero, I. A., Scott, A. B., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2015). Op cit.
  21. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Prevention Strategies. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violencepr...aces/prevention.html
  22. Nelson, C. A., Scott, R. D., Bhutta, Z. A., Harris, N. B.,  et al. (2020). Op cit.
  23. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention Strategies. op. cit.
  24. David-Ferdon, C., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Dahlberg, L. L., Marshall, K. J., Rainford, N. & Hall, J. E. (2016).A comprehensive technical package for the prevention of youth violence and associated risk behaviors. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  25. DuBois, D. L., & Karcher, M. J. (Eds.). (2014).Handbook of youth mentoring. Second edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  26. Basile, K.C., DeGue, S., Jones, K., Freire, K., Dills, J., Smith, S.G., & Raiford, J.L. (2016). STOP SV: A technical package to prevent sexual violence. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  27. Fortson, B. L., Klevens, J., Merrick, M. T., Gilbert, L. K., & Alexander, S. P. (2016). Preventing child abuse and neglect: a technical package for policy, norm, and programmatic activities. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  28. Ibid

Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences. op. cit.

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