“Our two most important findings are that these adverse childhood experiences: are vastly more common than recognized or acknowledged and have a powerful relation to adult health a half-century later.”
The ACE Study
The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study examined the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and later behaviors and health outcomes. It was the largest study looking at short- and long-term impacts of childhood trauma ever done.
The principal investigators were Dr. Vincent Felitti, founder and chief of Kaiser Permanente’s Preventive Medicine Department, and Dr. Robert Anda with the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service. Inspiration for the study came from Felitti’s discovery of a link between child sexual abuse and obesity in a weight loss reduction program, as well as Anda’s examination of how risk factors related to smoking, alcohol abuse and drug abuse tend to cluster.
More than 17,000 members of the Kaiser Health Plan in San Diego filled out a survey measuring the number of adverse childhood experiences. The survey focused on 10 types of trauma (see right). An ACE score was calculated by the number of categories a person was exposed to, not the frequency or severity of an experience within one category. Then, though comprehensive physical and mental evaluations,researchers connected the respondents’ adverse experiences to later health issues.
Surveys were completed between 1995 and 1997. Most study subjects were white, educated and middle class.
The ACE Study revealed that adverse childhood experiences are common. Nearly two-thirds of participants reported at least one ACE and more than one in five reported three or more ACEs.
The study also linked childhood trauma to a range of health and social outcomes including:
In addition, as the number of ACEs increase, so does the level of risk for each of these health issues in a strong and graded fashion.
Learn more about the connection between ACEs and later health and behavior outcomes.
Take the survey
Calculate your ACE score at www.acestudy.org. A high score doesn't guarantee bad outcomes, but can increase the odds of struggle.
The ACE Study measured 10 types of adverse childhood experiences: