The result of this lightbulb moment was eventually an ongoing survey, the bulk of which took place between 1995 to 1997. Over 17,000 people with health problems were asked about their childhoods. These subjects are still under ongoing surveillance, as we learn more and more about what childhood adversity means not just for adult health, but for our very mortality.
The study found a shocking three thousand per cent increase in attempted suicidewhen looking at the statistics of those ranking with over six ACEs.
If your body is constantly swamped with stress hormones it results in your body’s inflammatory response being too high. And science shows that inflammation is a leading cause of many long-term illnesses.
In fact the ACE study connects growing up in a difficult household and being treated poorly to chronic disease that includes cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Things to Keep in Mind About ACE scores
The ACE study simply links illness in adulthood to childhood difficulties. It does not at all prove it is the only reason we get ill as adults. Nor is a a high ACE result a guarantee you’ll be sick anytime soon.
Our bodies are unique, complicated machines and different people respond differently, even to trauma and stress. And genetics, and things like exposure to toxins, also cause illness.
Plus, there are things that help some of us develop resilience despite ACEs. This could be counteractive positive childhood experiences, or support from outside the home, such as a committed and caring teacher or family friend.
In fact many people who have difficult childhoods somehow thrive. Possible reasons for this that researchers are looking at include the differences in the ways males and females respond to stress, and how differences in genetic coding affect how each child will react to stress.
It is possible to conclude, however, that ACEs could make a genetic inclination to illness more likely to trigger.
Hope Despite a High ACE Score?
The last decades of research have finally crystallised a long-held hypothesis that the brain is actually plastic – it can change and regroup. So even if your ACE score is high, and your brain is affected by trauma, improvements are possible.
Talk therapies can help, especially those that create a strong connection between client and therapist, like schema therapy.
And new types of therapeutic interventions are being proven to help the brain’s plasticity and counter the effects of trauma even where other forms of therapy have failed.