The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recently issued a report highlighting findings and recommendations from the 2011 Minnesota Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). This survey has been conducted in Minnesota since 1994. However, this was the first year that data was collected on “the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on the lifelong health and well-being of adults in Minnesota.” The executive summary is available here. Key findings include:
An ACE is a traumatic experience that occurs before age 18. There are nine types of ACEs: physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, mental illness of a household member, problematic drinking or alcoholism of a household member, illegal street or prescription drug use by a household member, divorce or separation of a parent, domestic violence towards a parent, and incarceration of a household member.
ACEs are common and increase one’s risk for health problems. More than half (55%) of the Minnesotans surveyed reported experiencing at least one ACE. An increase in the number of ACEs was associated with an increase in risk for health problems, especially anxiety, depression and smoking. Risk for chronic drinking increased for individuals who reported experiencing four or more ACEs.
Promoting resiliency and reducing ACEs may reduce many ACE-related health and social problems. According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, “Research shows that, even under stressful conditions, supportive, responsive relationships with caring adults as early in life as possible can prevent or reverse the damaging effects of toxic stress response.” MDH recommended several strategies, including increasing awareness and enhancing the capacity of communities to prevent and respond to ACEs.