Why is Kaiser Permanente’s A.C.E. Study on childhood experiences so important to understand?

I want to start this post with explaining how the Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines childhood trauma. In the 1990s, Kaiser Permanente began a study to see how childhood experiences affected one’s health in adulthood. They partnered with the CDC and their findings surprised them. The more adverse childhood experiences one had, the higher risk for them of chronic health problems (Diabetes), unintended pregnancy, mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse, suicide, and premature death. Below, I will go into more detail and hopefully help put all the scientific lingo into layman’s terms. This study grabbed my interest for a very personal reason. I have 5 Adverse Childhood Experiences (A.C.E.).

Between the years of 1995 and 1997, over 17,000 patients covered by Kaiser Permanente Health Insurance were asked to complete confidential surveys when they came in for an appointment. The majority of these 17,000 people held at least a bachelor’s degree, were middle to upper middle class with health insurance coverage (Kaiser Permanente), and were predominantly Caucasian (nearly 75%). Two thirds of the participants reported at least one A.C.E and one in five reported having 3 or more A.C.E.s.

What did they consider to be an A.C.E.? Here are some of the questions:

-Did you watch your mother get abused?

-Did anyone abuse drugs or alcohol in your home?

-Were you sexually, emotionally, and/or physically abused?

-Did your parents separate or divorce?

-Did one of your parents or caregivers spend time in jail or prison?

-Did someone in your home suffer from mental illness?

What do these factors have to do with one’s health as an adult? Well, the more ACE factors you have the higher your risk for bad health as an adult. If people have 4 or more ACEs then their risk for pulmonary disease almost quadruples, the risk of contracting Hepatitis doubles, the risk of depression quintuples, and the risk of suicide is 12 times more likely. It also leads to a higher risk for cancer and obesity.

There is hope if intervention is given early and consistently. The risk factors mitigated or eliminated. Many children can have improved life outcomes if they have one consistent, supportive person in their life. The more supportive people they have, the higher their chances of overcoming their childhood experiences and having a better life outcome.

How can we combat ACEs? The CDC believes educating families at risk can help. They also believe in mentoring children with high ACE scores, changing societal norms that allow abuse and neglect to continue, early educational intervention, parenting skills education, and access to substance abuse and mental illness treatment facilities.

For greater detail you can view this information on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/aces/fastfact.html .

Do you want to figure out your ACE score? Follow this link: https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

My next post I will talk about trauma affects brain development. I will attempt to explain why these children really can’t “just behave”. Their brains are missing key parts. Stay tuned…!

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