ACE polls reveal that many in our community experienced significant childhood trauma

To be specific:

• 106 people indicated they'd lived with an alcoholic, problem drinker or someone addicted to street drugs.

• 194 people acknowledged they'd been emotionally abused.

• 161 noted they'd been physically abused.

• 155 indicated they'd been sexually abused.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, a recap: During two weeks -- from July 18 to July 29 -- we posted the simplified version of the ACE Study (the CDC's Adverse Childhood Experiences Study) questionnaire one question at a time in a daily poll. The 10 polls are aggregated here (you'll have to scroll down to find them). Each daily poll is accompanied by information about child trauma. You can find those on the ACEs group][3] page.

The CDC's ACE Study has been following 17,000 members of Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, in San Diego since the 1990s. Among this middle-class, overwhelmingly white, college-educated, employed population with great health insurance (Kaiser), the study found a link between childhood trauma, which was surprisingly common, and the adult onset of chronic disease. The ACE Study has been repeated in five states, the U.S. military has used it, as has the World Health Organization.

In the last post that accompanied the last poll on Friday, July 29, I promised to do an overview of all the polls by the following Monday. But I was so humbled that so many people were willing to revisit a difficult past by participating, however briefly, to vote in an anonymous poll, that I had to think about it for a while.

First....let's look at the results.

The screen grabs of all the posts are below. A reminder: These polls are completely unscientific. We published them just as a way to start the conversation.

Second....Just for conversation's sake, here are the ACE Study results for San Diego.

The weight of responses in our polls matches the top five in the ACE Study -- emotional, physical and sexual abuse; living with someone who's a problem drinker, alcoholic or addicted to street drugs; and losing a parent to divorce, abandonment or death.

Another remarkable finding of the ACE Study is that if a person had one adverse childhood experience, he or she was likely to have experienced others. In other words, family dysfunction usually isn't limited to just one thing. If a parent is an alcoholic, there's emotional or physical abuse or domestic violence that's likely to accompany it.

And the other eye-opener was that the more ACEs a person has, the more likely that disease will appear later in life. A person with an ACE score of four almost doubles her or his risk for obesity, heart attack and stroke; it almost quadruples the risk of emphysema.

Having childhood trauma doesn't mean that it will damage you for life. If there's an adult that steps in immediately to provide nurturing, then a child is likely to recover. However, if the trauma goes on for weeks, months or years, and there's nobody for the child to turn to, then stress hormones affect brain development, and a child has difficulty learning and interacting socially.

Third....What now? What are we going to do with this information?

I don't know. I think it's a question that our community has to answer, because my sense is that the people who participated in the poll are just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps seeing the range of what's happening in other communities across the U.S. might provide some ideas:

We've taken an important first step -- us hosting a poll, you participating.

What do you want to do next?

Tagged: child trauma, ACE Study, CDC


Julie Jacob 6 years, 5 months ago

Well if each yes answer is 1 ACE score, I'm at 7. (8 if you count the death of my fiancee when I was 19) Yeah I'm obese and have a few health issues, but I have a good job, support my family and enjoy life now.

Childhood trauma happens, I'm not suggesting that it isn't painful or have lasting effects. But instead of giving people a pity party, we need to help them grab their boot straps and move on.

jestevens 6 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for your comment. You've obviously endured some difficult times. Congratulations on how well you're doing in your life now!

jfhoosier 6 years, 5 months ago

It is a real eye opener that so many people have/are affected by these situations. Educating people on the seriousness of these issues and how they affect young people is so important. Hopefully we can find a better way to advertise resources that can help those who need it.

Charlie Bryan 6 years, 5 months ago

Understanding resistance to and recovery from adverse childhood experiences can be challenging. Among adults that faced serious adversity as children, we see everything from serious mental illness to remarkable success in adulthood.

What explains the difference between those who thrive and those who experience persistent challenges to their health and well-being? For those who face such challenges, what interventions and prevention measures to strengthen resistance and resilience would be effective and appropriate?

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