Adverse Childhood Experiences: Role in Health

Image shows a six-level pyramid to represent mechanisms by which adverse childhood experiences influence health and well-being throughout the lifespan. An arrow pointing upward is at the left of the pyramid. At bottom of the arrow is the word “conception;” at top is “death.” From the bottom up, the base of pyramid base of pyramid reads “Adverse Childhood Experiences.” Next level up reads “Disrupted Neurodevelopment.” Third level at middle of pyramid reads “Social, Emotional, and Cognitive Impairment.” Level four of the pyramid is Adoption of Health-risk Behaviors. Level five is Disease, Disability, and Social Problems. Level six at the top of the pyramid reads “Early Death.”

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html

What happens if we can eliminate a child’s experience of (1) crime in the home, (2) neglect, and (3) abuse (physical, mental, and sexual)? We see reductions in a host of health problems these early stressors cause with rates of return on our investment of up to 150%. Among the problems that can be reduced are:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Depression
  • Fetal death
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Poor work performance
  • Financial stress
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Adolescent pregnancy
  • Risk for sexual violence
  • Poor academic achievement

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