Ana Ibarra Health

Adverse childhood experiences have long-term effects on health

According to a new statewide report released Wednesday, there is a strong correlation between childhood traumatic experiences and poor health. These adverse childhood experiences, often referred to as simply ACEs, are defined by researchers as traumatic incidents that have a profound impact on a child’s developing brain and body, and can lead to an unhealthy adult life.

The most common types of ACEs among California adults, as detailed in the report, include: emotional abuse, parental separation, substance abuse by a household member and witness to domestic violence, among others.

The report explains that people reporting four or more ACEs are more likely to face greater physical and mental health challenges as well as social and economic challenges. Those with several ACEs, the report said, are 5.1 more times as likely to suffer from depression, and 4.2 times as likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The report’s key findings also indicated that this group is also 12 times more likely to be the victims of sexual violence after the age of 18 and 50 percent more likely to lack health insurance.

Last month, I sat down with Dave Lockridge, who first introduced me to the concept of ACE. Lockridge, is the founder of ACE Ovecomers, a local program that focuses on helping people understand the mental, physical and cognitive effects of adverse childhood experiences.

Many of the key points that Lockridge reviewed with me were reflected on the report. For instance, the fact that early traumatic experiences seem to be consistent despite race and location. But despite its effect on so many people--about 62 percent are affected in the three-county area of Merced, Madera and San Benito-- many are still unfamiliar with the the long-term impacts of adverse childhood experiences.

Information and help is available locally. In Merced, the ACE Overcomers program offers two 12-week session classes. Faith-based classes are available Monday nights at Creekside Evangelical Church on North G St. Community-based classes are offered Tuesday nights at the First Baptist Church on Buena Vista Dr.

A full story on the report by the Center for Youth Wellness will be available on Friday’s Sun-Star.