hard things happen

But these things do not define us.

Hurtful experiences happen to all of us. These things do not define us, but they can affect us throughout our lives. Research shows that an individual’s ACE score may be an indicator of future physical and mental health hurdles.

Resilience is a person’s ability to heal and bounce back.

What are ACEs?

ACEs is short for Adverse Childhood Experiences.

In simplest terms, the hurtful things that happen to us when we’re young can have lasting impacts on our health and wellbeing. The more hurts we experience, the greater the impact may be. 

The Truth About ACEs

This infographic from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation explains the concept of ACEs quickly and simply.

3 Realms of ACEs

This infographic from PACEs Connection explains the idea that adversity can happen in a household, a community, or the larger environment.

How to find your ACEs score

Your ACEs score can be a tool to help understand your health risks.

WARNING: The questions may bring up feelings that are hard to deal with. Please make sure you have someone you can talk to if needed.

As you take the survey and consider the results, please keep these things in mind:

• ACEs are common

• You can heal from ACEs

If you are in crisis, please call or text 988.

The link between ACEs and health

In the late 1990s, researchers uncovered a powerful link between childhood experiences and health. They talked with over 17,000 people about the things they had experienced before they were 18 years old, asking about whether people had experienced any of several difficult experiences in childhood, including:

  • Abuse (physical, emotional, sexual)
  • Neglect (physical, emotional)
  • Substance use in the home
  • Mental illness in the home
  • Domestic violence in the home
  • Family member in prison
  • Parents/guardians separated or divorced

Further work on this topic found additional childhood experiences with similar health links including: community violence, racism, bullying, natural disasters and more. We also knowLGBTQ youth are placed at a higher risk of experiencing trauma symptoms and suicide because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.

For each of these kinds of challenges a person experienced, their ACEs score increased by 1. A person experiencing none of the categories of difficult experiences had a score of 0. A person who experienced 4 different categories had a score of 4. With these scores in mind, they looked at the health of those 17,000+ people.

This led to some important realizations …

ACEs are everywhere & common

ACEs studies have been done many times, with each confirming the fact that ACEs are widespread in our society, regardless of income, skin color, education, etc.

64%

of the original study had at least one ACE.

12% had 4 or more.

61%

of adults in a CDC survey (across 25 states) reported they had experienced at least one type of ACE before age 18.

Nearly 1 in 6 reported 4 or more ACEs.

79%

2019 percentage of Maine high school students identified as having 0–3 ACEs.

21% had 4 or more.

As a person’s ACEs score increases, so does their risk for poor health and wellness

Compared to a person with an ACE score of zero, a person with an ACE score of 4 is…

4x

as likely to have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD, a serious heart disease)

4.5x

as likely to be depressed

2x

as likely to have severe obesity

11x

as likely to use intravenous (IV) drugs

Resilience—because you are more than a score.

Since this study, we’ve also learned that resilience—or the ability to bounce back from life’s stresses—can allow us to reduce or overcome the effects of ACEs.

Resilience Quiz

Resilience scores don’t fall into neat categories. Basically, the lower you rate your resilience, the more you may need to focus on building it so you can be as healthy and happy as possible.

Building resilience

Resilience is a skill that we can learn to develop. From practicing self-care to spending time in nature, there are lots of way to build resilience.

Resilient kids

Raising kids can be challenging. Thankfully, there are programs to connect to other parents and to learn and practice new skills.

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