Just some of the effects of having four or more ACEs

Just some of the effects of having four or more ACEs

Years of data collection from an organization advocating for children’s health is now available in its latest Hidden Crisis Report. The Center for Youth Wellness hopes to put a spotlight on a crucial yet hard-to-quantify part of childhood development: adversity.

“The Center is a centralized resource center where school staff, administrators, teachers, parents and youth can refer themselves and others to gain access to health and behavioral health services,” says Christine Tien, Healthy Communities Program staff member of the California Endowment.

At the heart of the CYW’s inquiry is the “Adverse Childhood Experience” (ACE). The San Francisco based organization defines ACEs as “traumatic experiences that have a profound impact on a child’s developing brain and body with lasting impacts on a person’s health and livelihood throughout [their] lifetime.” To the CYW, these traumatic experiences are the real “hidden crisis”.

The report includes data from every county in California and covers a variety of ACEs. Almost 28,000 California adults over a four year period were asked about any ACEs they may have endured growing up. To the 62% of Californians who have gone through at least one such experience, the results are troubling but not surprising.

The three most common ACEs reported from the statewide survey were emotional abuse (34.9%), separation of parents (26.7%), and substance abuse by someone in the home (26.1). It’s also worth noting that more than one in five people reported experiencing physical abuse, while one in ten were subjected to sexual abuse in their youth.

In Sacramento County, 62% to 65% of adults recalled at least one type of traumatic childhood incident. Out of every county in the state, none had a rate below 50%.

For example, a little over 5,000 people in the study had lived with an alcoholic. In addition, 35% said that an adult in the home had sworn at, insulted, or otherwise put them down as a child. Even more troubling, 900 respondents reported at least one time when a parent or caretaker failed to make sure a “basic need” was taken care of.

This extensive new data can now be used to better understand the effects of ACEs later in life. For instance, those who had four or more types of ACE growing up were 27% more likely to not have a college degree, and were more than three times as likely to be unemployed. Furthermore, they were almost twice as likely to suffer from asthma, five times as likely to have depression, and one and a half times as likely to have a stroke. Higher amounts of ACEs can also be linked to activities such as smoking, binge drinking, and engaging in “risky sexual behavior”.

“There have been many reports and articles published recently that talk about how adverse childhood experiences can affect your long term health,” Tien adds. “That’s why it’s so important to identify ACEs early and provide youth with health and behavioral health support right away.”

To view the entire report, please visit:


To learn more about the Center for Youth Wellness, please visit:


(imagines courtesy of the Center for Youth Wellness)