Adverse Childhood Experiences and their impact on health-harming behaviours in the Welsh adult population
A study of public health and wellbeing in Wales identified long-term effects of chronic stress brought on by harm or neglect in childhood known as ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). 2028 Welsh adults were surveyed and found that 47% had experienced at least 1 ACE and 14% had experienced 4 or more.
The occurrence of ACEs impacts brain development as well as the immune and hormone systems. These experiences condition individuals into a higher state of alertness, which has the physiological effect of increasing the wear and tear on physical health. The resulting anxiety and other mental health conditions also affect concentration and so can negatively impact educational attainment, decreasing the chances of future success.
Individuals affected by ACEs are more likely to take part in health-harming, anti-social, and risk-taking behaviours, including smoking, alcoholism, and drug-taking. They are also more likely to be incarcerated, have a poor diet, and have unintended teenage pregnancies. As a result of these behaviours and the physiological stress ACEs incur, they are more likely to develop diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mental illness. Those who have ACEs are also more likely to have children who have similar experiences, resulting in a cycle of negativity.
Reducing ACEs will therefore improve individuals’ well-being across the life course and reduce costs on the National Health Service (NHS), and well as social, welfare, and criminal justice systems. National policies and programmes need to identify who the at-risk children are and provide monitored and informed interventions, as well as better equipping care-givers to prevent harm occurring, so that young people can go on to achieve their full potential.
To read the full report click here.