Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Stress and Mental Health in College Students

Stress Health. 2018 Feb;34(1):36-45. doi: 10.1002/smi.2761. Epub 2017 May 16.


The goal of this short-term longitudinal study was to examine whether adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) could be used to identify college students at risk for mental health problems and whether current level of stress mediates the relationship between ACEs and mental health. Data on ACEs and mental health (depression, anxiety and suicidality) were collected at the beginning of the semester, and data on current stressors and mental health were collected toward the end of the semester (n = 239). Findings indicated that ACEs predicted worsening of mental health over the course of a semester and suggested current number of stressors as a mediator of the relationship between ACEs and mental health. Results suggest that screening for ACEs might be useful to identify students at high risk for deterioration in mental health. Results further suggest that stress-related interventions would be beneficial for students with high levels of ACEs and point to the need for more research and strategies to increase help-seeking in college students.

Keywords: adverse childhood experiences; college students; mental health; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult Survivors of Child Adverse Events / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult