CDC’s ACE Study: Childhood Trauma Has Lasting Impacts


Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Department of Health & Human Services

Chautauqua County joins New York State in marking April 30th as a day to bring awareness to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

A 1998 study from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente is leading the paradigm shift in the medical community’s approach to disease. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study was one of the largest investigations ever conducted to show a correlation between the number of different types of childhood experiences and the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors, having chronic health problems and dying young. This study has changed the conversation with patients to more of “What happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?”

The ACE study had two key findings:

  • ACES are incredibly common, and
  • The more ACES, the higher the risk for chronic disease as an adult.
  • Other data collected concluded:
  • 13 percent of the participants had four or more ACES,
  • 67 percent had at least one ACE,
  • Those with a high ACE score had three times the identified risk for heart disease or lung cancer,
  • Children left untreated for a high ACE score had a 20 year difference in life expectancy, and
  • If you experience other toxic stress (exposure to violence, poverty, caregiver mental illness and/or substance abuse, lack of adequate adult support, etc.) as a child, your chances of problems in adulthood would increase.

“The ACE study findings tell us that adverse childhood experiences are major risk factors for chronic disease, disability and death as well as poor quality of life,” said Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County Director of Health and Human Services. “Intervening early with prevention efforts can reduce the effects of ACEs and toxic stress resulting in improved public health and well-being.”

The ACE study is one of the longest running studies to analyze the relationship between the different types of childhood trauma and future health and behavioral outcomes. Over 17,337 adults enrolled in the Kaiser HMO in the original ACE study participated and answered questions about types of trauma, if any they had experienced as a child. The ACE study shows a clear concrete link between childhood trauma and adult onset chronic diseases and adult social and emotional problems, including heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, depression, violence, being a victim of violence, incarceration, suicide and early death. The higher the ACE score, the higher the risk for problems in adulthood.

For more information on the ACE study and Adverse Childhood Experiences visit