Tackling ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ key to improving mental well-being in Wales says report

Thenumber of adults living with low mental well-being in Wales could be reduced bymore than a quarter (27%) if no individuals in Wales were exposed to harmfulexperiences in childhood says a new study by Public Health Wales.

The studyof Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) found almost half (47%) of adults inWales have suffered at least one ACE. 14% of adults in Wales have suffered fouror more ACEs.

AdverseChildhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic experiences that occur beforethe age of 18 but are remembered throughout adulthood.

Theseexperiences range from verbal, mental and physical abuse, to being exposed toalcoholism, drug use and domestic violence at home.

Forty-onepercent (41%) of adults in Wales who suffered four or more adverse experiencesin childhood are now living with low mental well-being.

Thiscompares to 14% of those individuals who experienced no ACEs during theirchildhood.

ProfessorMark Bellis, Director of Policy, Research, and International Development atPublic Health Wales said: “It’s difficult to overstate the lasting damagethat can be inflicted by adverse experiences in childhood.

“Ourstudy of ACEs has already showed that people who are exposed to ACEs are morelikely to adopt health-harming and anti-social behaviours in adult life.

“Thislatest report shows how adverse experiences in childhood can have a toxiceffect on mental well-being that remains long into adulthood.

“It’sclear that reducing the number of adverse experiences suffered by children inWales would have a hugely positive impact on the mental well-being of thepopulation.”

The ACEsmost commonly suffered by children in Wales are verbal abuse (23%), parentalseparation (20%) and physical abuse (17%). Other frequently occurring ACEsinclude being exposed to domestic violence (16%), mental illness (14%), alcoholabuse (14%), sexual abuse (10%), drug use (5%) and incarceration (5%).

Theresults from this survey contribute to a growing body of research that shows a stronglink between Adverse Child Experiences and links with poor physical and mentalhealth, chronic disease, lower educational achievement and lower economicsuccess in adulthood.

MarkBellis continued: “Supporting parents, especially with the earliest yearsof child-raising, can help reduce ACEs.

“Health,housing, criminal justice, education and other public services all need tounderstand the life-long importance of providing a safe and nurturingchildhood.

“Everyagency has a part to play in the prevention of ACEs and in helping tackle theproblems people face in later life because of the abuse, neglect and fear theylived with as children.”

This isone in a series of reports examining the prevalence ofACEs in the Welsh adult population and their impact on health and well-beingacross the life course.

The ACEreport is based on a study of over 2,000 adults aged 18-69 years in Wales.These adults provided anonymous information on their exposure to ACEs beforethe age of 18 years and their health and lifestyles as adults.

The studymeasured mental well-being using the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-beingScale, an internationally validated self-completion tool.

A fullversion of the report can be downloaded here: Adverse Childhood Experiences and their association withmental wellbeing in the Welsh adult population