The Long-Term Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Barry K. Weinhold, Ph.D.

ACEs pyramidIf you ever wondered how adverse childhood experiences might affect adult physical health, then you will be interested in these research findings.  In 1995, Kaiser Permanente surveyed 17,000 adults from Southern California where they found significant correlations between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and adult physical health problems. They found that the more ACEs you had, the greater risk you of you getting cancer, heart disease, diabetes, strokes and depression.

Since then, there have been over 65 other studies on the long-term effects of ACEs on adult physical health, mostly yielding similar results. Below are the results of a few of those studies:

ACE Study Results

In March 2015, a new study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on the effects of ACEs on the physical health of adults. They randomly selected adults from ten states and D.C. and interviewed them via a telephone survey using most of the same questions that were asked in the 1995 study. The questions covered nine possible ACEs, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, household member mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, imprisonment, divorce and intimate partner violence.

When compared to those who reported no ACE exposure during childhood, those adults who reported one to three, four to six or seven to nine ACEs, had an increased risk of heart attacks, asthma, fair/poor health, frequent mental distress, and disabilities. For example, the odds of having coronary heart disease and stroke as adults were found to be significantly higher for those who reported four to six and seven to nine ACEs. The odds of getting diabetes where significantly higher for those reporting even only one to three and four to six ACEs. Here’s a chart that looks at how adverse childhood experiences affect our lives and society.

ACES results

Another study, published in 2014, conducted phone interviews with adults about ACEs. More than half (57%) reported at least one ACE and 23% reported disability as adults. Again, they found a significant relationship between the number of ACEs reported and the serious adult health problems listed above.

Another study, published in 2013, used the same instrument to do a telephone survey of adults in five different states. They found that the number of ACEs was significantly related to insufficient sleep in adults.

James Reese

The research of Dr. Dan Siegel and others indicated that the most effective way to integrate the left and right hemispheres of your brain is by making sense of your early childhood experiences. If you can connect the dots between any adverse childhood experiences you had and the circumstances of your adult life and your health, you are well into both rewiring your brain and healing your developmental traumas. Both are key steps in healing your developmental traumas. Our clinical research showed that many people forget either that these ACEs happened, or create stories to “normalize” them. This means that the results of these studies are probably highly understated.

Our clinical research indicates that many people either forget these ACEs, or create stories to “normalize” them. This means that the extent of these effects is understated. In addition, our experiences with helping people uncover their hidden developmental traumas showed that many of developmental traumas are caused by neglect This adverse childhood experience was not researched in these studies and is even more difficult to remember.

The Freaked Out 101 online course can definitely helps you connect the dots and uncover hidden developmental traumas that are the cause of the disruptions in you adult life. The course includes six self-assessment instruments that will greatly help you in this discovery.

You can purchase packages of this course to use with your clients as an adjunct to your therapy practice. I know from my experience as a therapist for almost 50 years that helping people connect the dots is essential for effective therapy.

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