What is an ACE?

“Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) refer to some of the most intensive and frequently occurring sources of stress that children may suffer early in life. Such experiences include multiple types of abuse; neglect; violence between parents or caregivers; other kinds of serious household dysfunction such as alcohol and substance abuse; and peer, community and collective violence." (World Health Organisation, WHO)

The effects of an ACE can be substantial in adulthood and may include:

  • Physical injuries
  • Poor emotional health and wellbeing, i.e. feelings of abandonment, fear, anxiety, depression, self-harm or even suicide
  • Longer term: range of health and social outcomes, i.e. drug and alcohol misuse, sexual health, parental depression, diabetes and heart disease
  • Higher overall health care costs


In an English National ACE study nearly half (47%) of individuals experienced at least one ACE with 9% of the population having 4+ ACEs.

The case for routine enquiry into ACEs and the resulting better targeting of help is overwhelming when reviewing the statistics.

  • People exposed to 4+ ACEs die 20 years earlier than those with no ACEs
  • Four or more ACEs significantly increase the odds of a person 
  • Developing cancer (by nearly two times)
  • Being a current smoker (just over two times)
  • Having sexually transmitted infections (by two and a half times)
  • Using illicit drugs (by nearly five times increased risk)
  • Being addicted to alcohol (over seven times increased risk)
  • Attempting suicide (over 12 times increased risk)


Preventing ACEs in future generations could reduce levels of:

  • Early sex by 22%
  • Unintended teen pregnancy by 38%
  • Smoking (current) by 16%
  • Binge drinking (current) by 15%
  • Cannabis use (lifetime) by 18%
  • Heroin/crack use (lifetime) by 59%
  • Violence victimisation (past year) by 51%
  • Incarceration (lifetime) by 53%
  • Poor diet (current) by 14%
  • Mood disorders by 22.9%
  • Anxiety disorders by 31%
  • Behavioural disorders by 41%
  • Psychosis by 33%
  • Mental health diagnoses by 29%

Please contact us on 01772 777105 or email us via reach@lancashirecare.nhs.uk

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