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A majority of adult Ohioans report trauma in childhood. It may affect their health now, study shows

A woman holds the face of a young girl.
Many adult Ohioans report being affected by adverse childhood experiences or ACEs. Those experiences may impact their health today, new data shows.

Nearly 75% of adult Ohioans report experiencing potentially traumatizing events as children that have been linked to negative health outcomes throughout life, according to new data released by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio.

The data shows in 2021 two-thirds of Ohio adults reported at least one adverse childhood experience, or ACE, and nearly half reported being exposed to two or more.

ACEs include emotional, physical and sexual abuse, a household member with a substance use disorder, the divorce or separation of one's parents, mental illness in the home, witnessing domestic violence and having an incarcerated household member.
Homelessness and discrimination are also considered ACEs, according to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those experiences are linked to "disrupted neurodevelopment, social and emotional challenges, disease, disability and premature death," according to HPIO.
When children experience ACEs, it is likely to cause challenges throughout their lives, said Becky Carroll, the director of policy research and analysis at HPIO.

“ACEs cause changes in the brain in childhood, and that can disrupt development and lead to developmental delays and social challenges,” she said.

When viewed on a macro level, ACEs can affect society as a whole, said Carrie Almasi, HPIO's director of assessment and planning.

Data showing the percentage of adults who have reported they've been afflicted by ACEs.
Health Policy of Ohio
Two thirds of adults have reported being affected by one or more ACES, as shown by this 2021 data from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio.

“Regardless of whether you or a family member have been impacted by ACEs, we know that exposure to ACEs is a pervasive problem that impacts the overall health and well-being and economic vitality of our state,” said Almasi.

The more ACEs a person experiences during childhood, the more likely that person is to experience poor health outcomes during their lifetime like heart disease, cancer, substance abuse, mental health issues and sometimes early death, according to HPIO.

But ACEs are preventable, said Almasi. HPIO recommends adopting strategies including mentorship programs, income support and prevention programs to prevent ACEs.

That prevention could have widespread positive health effects, the group said, including reducing the number of people suffering from health conditions. By preventing ACEs, the CDC estimates that nationally 1.9 million cases of heart disease and 21 million depression cases potentially could have been avoided.

In Ohio, HPIO data show $10 billion could be saved in annual health care-related spending if ACEs were eliminated.

Emma MacNiven is a senior journalism student at Kent State University.