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Childhood Stress Can Make You Ill as an Adult

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

adverse childhood experiences

Story at-a-glance -

  • Prolonged stress can have life-threatening consequences not only for adults but also for children. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can predispose them to any number of health problems later in life
  • In 2020, California is allocating $105 million to promote screening for ACEs, which have been shown to trigger toxic stress responses and epigenetic changes linked to a variety of health problems
  • Biological switches flipped during ACEs increase a child’s risk for nicotine, alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness and suicide, impaired immune function, heart disease, cancer and dementia later in life
  • ACEs known to impact health include psychological, physical and sexual abuse, domestic abuse, living with household members who are substance abusers, mentally ill or suicidal, early death of a parent, living in a household in which a member has been or is imprisoned, neglect, separation and divorce
  • Nearly 1 in 6 adults (15.6%) has experienced four or more types of ACEs, raising their risk for at least five of the top 10 leading causes of death

Prolonged stress can have life-threatening consequences not only for adults but also for children. Research shows adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can predispose them to any number of health problems later in life.

In the early days of mankind’s evolution, the stress response saved our lives by enabling us to run from predators or take down prey. Today, however, such dire circumstances are few and far between, yet we still turn on the same “life-saving” reaction to cope with countless everyday situations.


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