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Understanding & Preventing ACEs

Published on: August 22, 2022.


As the number of ACEs increases

so does the likelihood of negative health outcomes

About this Data Insights

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that can affect a person’s mental and physical health, well-being, and success in adulthood. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted family life in ways that greatly increased exposure to ACEs for millions of children. Many children have lost a parent or caregiver and been exposed to economic hardships such as food insecurity and homelessness. ACEs can also have lasting, negative effects on health, 5 of the 10 leading causes of death are associated with ACEs.

This infographic explores the lasting effect ACEs have on a person. It also offers methods for preventing ACEs through protective measures and solutions implemented early in life. Key approaches to reducing ACEs include understanding risk factors and protecting young people from violence and abuse.

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ACEs stand for Adverse Childhood Experiences: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fast Facts: Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences, April 2022

ACEs also include aspects of the child’s environment: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fast Facts: Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences, April 2022

Adverse childhood experiences are common and add up

Those at greater risk for experiencing multiple ACEs: Merrick MT, Ford DC, Ports KA, et al. Vital Signs: Estimated Proportion of Adult Health Problems Attributable to Adverse Childhood Experiences and Implications for Prevention — 25 States, 2015–2017

What does it mean to grow up with gun violence: Rajan S, Branas CC, Myers D, Agrawal N. Youth exposure to violence involving a gun: evidence for adverse childhood experience classification. J Behav Med. 2019

How has the pandemic affected children and their health: Krause KH, Verlenden JV, Szucs LE, et al. Disruptions to School and Home Life Among High School Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic — Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey, United States, January–June 2021

Adverse childhood experiences are linked to many health problems

As the number of ACEs increases: K. Hughes, M.A. Bellis, K.A. Hardcastle, et al., The effect of multiple adverse childhood experiences on health: a systematic review and meta-analysis Lancet Public Health, August 2017

ACEs can negatively impact: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fast Facts: Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences, April 2022

Toxic Stress definition: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. ACEs and Toxic Stress: Frequently Asked Questions.

Adversity & toxic stress linked to increased health risks: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Leveraging the Best Available Evidence, 2019.

Leading causes of death are associated with ACEs: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fast Facts: Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences, April 2022

Adverse childhood experiences can lead to health risk behaviors

Adverse childhood experiences can lead to health risk behaviors: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, We Can Prevent Childhood Adversity, March 2022

  • Smoking

  • Heavy drinking

  • Substance misuse,

  • Risky sexual behavior

  • Suicidal thoughts

How to prevent adverse childhood experiences

Preventing ACEs could potentially reduce the number of health conditions in adults: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Signs: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Preventing early trauma to improve adult health, November 2019

NOTE: Data comes from - BRFSS 2015-2017, 25 states, CDC Vital Signs, November 2019.

  • Depressive disorder

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

  • Chronic Heart Disease

  • Kidney Disease

  • Overweight/Obesity

Preventing ACEs: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Leveraging the Best Available Evidence, 2019.


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