Have you wondered if you might be at risk for certain negative health conditions or diseases, or if you might die at an early age?
Have you ever considered why you adapt unfavorable habits? Would you believe me if I told you that a 10-question quiz about your childhood could predict the answers to these questions, and more?
Yes, this quiz really exists. According to the CDC, the quiz is based on a study conducted from 1995 to 1997. The CDC reports that the California study had over 17,000 participants fill out a questionnaire that identified different adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). These ACEs consisted of 10 potentially traumatic events, experienced before the age of 18. For each event that an individual had experienced, they received a single point. Further research showed two scores at which an individual’s risk for negative health outcomes rose significantly. The CDC identified the first as an ACE score of four or more, and the second as an score of seven or more.
The CDC website reads, “ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education and job opportunities.”
First, it’s important to note how common ACEs are in our country. According to the CDC, it was found after surveying 25 states that about 61 percent of adults had experienced at least one adverse childhood experience. Further, the CDC said about one in six adults reported that they had experienced four or more ACEs.
You may be wondering what exactly your ACE score will tell you. After further research, we have a broader understanding of how serious high ACE scores can be. For example, the CDC says that an individual with a high ACE score is at a higher risk of injury, addiction, sexually transmitted infections, maternal and child health problems, and teen pregnancy. This individual is also at an increased risk of involvement in sex trafficking and developing a range of negative health diseases, such as chronic disease and leading causes of death (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and suicide).
The ACE quiz itself asks an individual about certain childhood experiences that have the potential to be very traumatic for a child. The quiz asks about a variety of topics, including experiencing violence or abuse in the household, having a family member incarcerated, a family member attempt or commit suicide, experiencing someone in the house who struggled with mental health issues or substance misuse, experiencing parental separation, and more.
There is no denying how important the ACE study was in helping people understand the lasting effect of childhood trauma. But it still shouldn’t be okay that this study was conducted over 20 years ago and we’re still not talking about it. Today, we start.
With everything we have learned, it is crucial to remember that we can prevent ACEs and create a better future for the generations to come. According to the CDC, “Creating and sustaining safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children and families can prevent ACEs and help all children reach their full potential.” Learn from your trauma and apply it in a constructive way.
If you want to find out your ACE score, go to https://developingchild.harvard.edu/media-coverage/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean/ or type “ACE score test” in a Google search.
Your ACE score is important for so many reasons. First, learning your score can help prepare you for adverse health outcomes you may be at an increased risk of developing. If you have a score of 7 or higher, you’re already more likely to die up to 20 years before those with a low score.
Another less obvious reason this study is important is because if we can start identifying those who have experienced severe childhood trauma, we can intervene when needed in order to start breaking generational ties of trauma. For example, imagine a world where every child gets screened for their ACE score each year at their physical. If we implemented a procedure as simple as this, we could start healing the trauma of our future generations, creating a better America for everyone.
Now ask yourselves, why isn’t this happening? We know childhood trauma is linked to violent behaviors in adulthood, mental health issues, social issues, educational issues, and more, but we sit by and ignore the data because it’s easier than talking about it.
As a social worker, you start to realize that our future is really in the hands of our children. When we start to look at how trauma is affecting our children, it’s easy for us to identify childhood trauma as a public health crisis. Many people may not view it that way, but it is true. Did you know that experiencing too much stress as a shield can literally shrink your brain, the prefrontal cortex? You probably didn’t, and this is what I mean. If we want to ensure a better future, we must start talking about childhood trauma.