Health >> Childhood Health Risks >> Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) >> Adult Health Outcomes

King County adults with high ACE scores were more likely than those with low scores to be obese, drink excessively, smoke cigarettes, and report poor physical and mental health.

During childhood, frequent or extended exposure to toxic stressors – such as abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction – can impair brain development, with potentially lifelong consequences for health and wellbeing.  Similarly, certain attitudes and preferences in adolescence can predict whether teens are likely to engage in unhealthy or delinquent behaviors. 

In a telephone survey, King County adults were asked to think back to the years before they were 18 and report their exposure to any of 8 categories of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).  Scores ranged from 0 to 8.  To facilitate demographic comparisons, 3 years of data were averaged.

  • King County adults with high ACE scores were more likely than those with low ACE scores to be obese, to drink excessively, to be current smokers, to report fair or poor health, and to report mental distress in at least 14 of the previous 30 days.
  • These findings are consistent with the results of previous studies in which high numbers of adverse childhood experiences were associated with unhealthy behaviors, premature death, and high rates of chronic disease.