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What’s Your ACE Score?

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

A study done in the mid-1990’s assessed the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences in about 17,000 patients, and then assessed the presence of negative physical outcomes.  The research discovered “a direct link between childhood trauma and adult onset of chronic disease, incarceration, and employment challenges.”  The higher the number of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) the more likely were negative outcomes.  

More recent research has looked at the impact of high ACE scores on mental health outcomes as well.  The ACE Inventory is only 10 items, and you can find it online and take and score it very easily.  Here’s a bit of what we now know.  

People who score 0 have a 2.5% likelihood of becoming an alcoholic, while people who score 4 or more have a 11% likelihood of becoming an alcoholic.

Men who score 0 have a 10% likelihood of experiencing depression, and women who score 0 have a 15% likelihood of experiencing depression.  Men who score 4 or more have a 30% likelihood of experiencing depression, and women who score 4 or more have a 42% likelihood of experiencing depression.  Those are really big differences.

Here are a couple of disease outcomes.  People who score 0 on the ACE Inventory have about a 3.7% chance of heart disease, while people who score 4 or more have about a 5.6% chance of heart disease.  Likewise the risk of stroke goes from a 2.6% chance with a score of 0 to a 4.1% chance with a score of 4 or more.

The CDC notes that “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. ACEs can include violence, abuse, and growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems. Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect how the body responds to stress. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood.”

A few takeaways.  First, go online, find the ACE Inventory, take it and find out your score.  Second, look at your own life and consider how your history of adverse childhood experiences may be impacting you now.  Third, if you see the likelihood of negative outcomes in your own life due to your experiences, seriously consider seeking help to address both your history of adverse experiences and the current impact of those experiences.  Fourth, look at the issue from a community wide perspective and think about how the community can help reduce the number of high ACE scores in the community.

We have competent and caring therapists in all four of our locations - River Counseling Services in Platte, Sioux Falls Psychological Services, and Stronghold Counseling Services in Sioux Falls and in Yankton - who will meet you where you are, offering hope. That is our mission. You may schedule an appointment at the Platte office at 605-337-3444 or meet with one of our Sioux Falls or Yankton based therapists from your computer, smartphone, or in person at any of our clinics. To schedule an appointment, please call 605-334-2696.