Everything that happens in our lives affects us; events can change us for better or worse, and some things affect us more than others. But did you know that suffering childhood adversity, such as extreme poverty, abuse, neglect, or a sick or alcoholic parent, can affect you right through your life? And it’s not just a mental health issue either. Experiencing toxic stress and adverse conditions as a child can actually alter your physiological make up and cause life-threatening physical diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The correlation between childhood adversity and later ill health was first discussed in a 1995 study by physicians Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda, and since then, the evidence has been mounting. Now, there can be little doubt that childhood adversity can and does affect later adult health. In that initial study, Felitti and Anda examined the childhood and adolescent histories of 17,000 people, looking for what they termed ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), or chronic, unpredictable, and stress-inducing life events. Of those they studied, a huge two thirds had suffered at least one ACE and 90% of those two thirds had experienced more than one. They then looked at the correlation between the patients’ ACE score and their health – and the results were shocking.