What are ACEs?

What are ACEs?

ACEs are specified traumatic events occurring before the age of 18 years. High or frequent exposure to ACEs, without the support of a trusted adult can lead to toxic stress.

Public Health Wales has done outstanding work raising awareness of ACEs and this short animation film developed with Darwen Local Authority provides a compelling introduction to the subject.

Facts and stats

There is a large body of evidence which shows that the adversity we experience as children can affect us into adulthood. Within a general population anyone can be susceptible to ACEs regardless of ethnicity, sex and socioeconomic status, although the number of ACEs experience tends to increase with lower socioeconomic status.

ACEs are prevalent across the population and recent studies have shown:

  • Nearly half of people in England experience at least one ACE, with around 9% experiencing four or more ACEs (Blackburn & Darwen Study)
  • Six ACEs can reduce your life expectancy by 20 years
  • For every 100 adults in England, 48 have suffered at least one ACE during their childhood and nine suffered four or more

This slide is taken from a presentation by Public Health England and references the National household survey of adverse childhood experiences and their relationship with resilience to health-harming behaviours in England (BMC Medicine 2014).

The original ACEs study, which was conducted in the US, found that around two-thirds (64%) of the 17,000 individuals included in the study reported at least one ACE, with over a quarter (26%) suffering physical abuse and a fifth experiencing some form of sexual abuse. Around one in eight individuals (13%) had experienced four or more ACEs.