Health & Fitness

Childhood experiences can affect health later in life

A person who suffered adverse childhood experiences can undergo serious health effects throughout life, even dying up to 20 years earlier than a person who never underwent those experiences, said Dave Lockridge, executive director for Adverse Childhood Experiences Overcomers (ACE) in Merced County.

Abuse, neglect and household dysfunctions are among some of the 10 categories of adverse childhood experiences, he said. "The effects of adverse childhood experience if not dealt with, can affect you all throughout life," he said. "One does not escape the effects, not even 50 years later."

For example, household dysfunctions include living in a house with domestic violence, a family member with a mental illness, substance abuse within the home, parental separation or divorce and having at least one family member incarcerated, Lockridge said.

"Those 10 experiences are considered to be some of the most impactfull in a child's life," he said.

The scale of the impact is measured from 0 to 10, Lockridge explained. A person who scores a 10, means that they experienced all 10 different categories of the adverse childhood experiences. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that if you score 6 average on a 0 to 10 scale, that you die 20 years earlier than a person who scores 0," he said. "So there's definitive health and emotional effects."

That's due to two things, Lockridge explained. One is acquiring health risk behaviors such as smoking, drinking and using drugs among other high risk behaviors.

The second part, he said, is the emotional and internal stress, and the health problems associated with that, such as high blood pressure.

About seven years ago, Lockridge became familiar with the ACE study, which is an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente. He said he was so impressed by the study that he decided to go back to school to earn a bachelor's degree in Psychology so he could start the ACE Overcomers.

And he did it.

In March 2010, he was able to start the nonprofit, which is based in Atwater. "My intent is to help teens and adults overcome the effects of those 10 categories of abuse, neglect, household dysfunctions or adverse childhood experiences," he said.

He now serves anywhere from 40 to 45 people on a weekly basis through a class that the nonprofit offers at no cost. The class covers self-image, how to handle anxiety and overcoming depression among other components.

Aside from the class that he offers in Atwater every Tuesday, he also offers a class at Haven of Hope and JMJ Maternity Homes Inc. in Merced.

Another class in Merced will be offered in August, but details are still being worked out.

There's a "tremendous" need in the community, he said. "When you consider that statistics are that one out of four women and one out of seven men were sexually abused before their 18th birthday by someone at least five years older than them, and those are pretty hard working statistics," he said. "And that's just one out of 10 categories."

For information about the classes call, (209) 617-4688, or or look for ACE Overcomers on Facebook.