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Did you know that the more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) you have, the greater your risk is of developing various psychological and physical illnesses, as an adult? But how can this be?

In a large-scale research study of 8,000 people, researchers looked at various ACE’s and how they are related to adulthood health and disease outcome.[1] The ACE’s that the researchers asked about included:

  • Psychological abuse,
  • Physical abuse,
  • Sexual abuse,
  • Substance abuse by a household family member,
  • Mental illness of a household family member,
  • Spousal or partner violence, and
  • Criminal behavior resulting in the incarceration of a household member.

The researchers found a strong dose-dependent relationship between the number of the ACE’s that people had experienced and 10 behavioural risk factors associated with the leading causes of death in adults; including smoking, severe obesity, decreased physical activity, depressed mood, a suicide attempt, alcoholism, any drug use, injection drug use, greater than fifty lifetime sexual partners, and a history of a sexually transmitted disease. Dose-dependent simply means that the more ACE’s that a person is exposed to as a child, the higher his/her risk for the development of adulthood psychological and physical problems.

For instance, the researchers found that people who had experienced four or more ACE’s (compared to people who had experienced none), had 4-12 times increased risks for health behaviours such as alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and suicide attempts. These participants also had 2-4 times increased likelihood of the following: smoking, engaging in risky sexual behaviours, disengaging from physical activity, and suffering from severe obesity in adulthood.

Unfortunately, negative life events continue to occur throughout a lifetime – we experience separation and/or divorce, motor vehicle accidents, cancer, work-related stress or injuries, loss of a loved one, life transitions, miscarriages, becoming a new parent, bullying, etc. These “small t traumas” do in fact accumulate over a lifetime, and need to be addressed. Call HopeWell Psychological now so we can help you to heal both psychologically and physically.

References

[1].Felitti VJ. Anda RF. Nordenberg D. Williamson DF. Spitz AM. Edwards V. Koss MP. Marks JS. Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. Journal of Preventative Medicine 1998;14(4):245-258.

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