Background: Studies suggest strong links between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and poor adult health and social outcomes. However, the use of such studies in non-US populations is relatively scarce.
Methods: Retrospective cross-sectional survey of 1500 residents and 67 substance users aged 18-70 years in a relatively deprived and ethnically diverse UK population.
Results: Increasing ACEs were strongly related to adverse behavioural, health and social outcomes. Compared with those with 0 ACEs, individuals with 4+ ACEs had adjusted odds ratios of the following: 3.96 [95% confidence interval (CI): 2.74-5.73] for smoking; 3.72 (95% CI: 2.37-5.85) for heavy drinking; 8.83 (95% CI: 4.42-17.62) for incarceration and 3.02 (95% CI: 1.38-6.62) for morbid obesity. They also had greater risk of poor educational and employment outcomes; low mental wellbeing and life satisfaction; recent violence involvement; recent inpatient hospital care and chronic health conditions. Higher ACEs were also associated with having caused/been unintentionally pregnant aged <18 years and having been born to a mother aged <20 years.
Conclusions: ACEs contribute to poor life-course health and social outcomes in a UK population. That ACEs are linked to involvement in violence, early unplanned pregnancy, incarceration, and unemployment suggests a cyclic effect where those with higher ACE counts have higher risks of exposing their own children to ACEs.
Keywords: childhood experiences; chronic disease; substance use; violence; wellbeing.