Relationships Between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Health Status in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2020 Apr;72(4):525-533. doi: 10.1002/acr.23878.


Objective: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with poor adult health and immune dysregulation. The impact of ACEs on patients with autoimmune disease is unknown. The present study was undertaken to compare the prevalence of ACEs in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) to a population-based survey estimate and to investigate relationships between ACEs and SLE outcomes.

Methods: Data derived from the California Lupus Epidemiology Study (CLUES), a sample of adult patients with SLE. Participants completed a 10-item ACE questionnaire covering 3 domains (abuse, neglect, household challenges). We estimated ACE prevalence in 269 CLUES participants compared to geographically matched respondents from the 2015 California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which was standardized to CLUES participant characteristics (age, sex, race/ethnicity). We examined associations of patient-reported and physician-assessed health status measures with overall ACE levels and domains using multivariable linear regression, controlling for sociodemographics, nephritis, and juvenile-onset SLE.

Results: Although specific domains varied, overall ACE levels were similar for CLUES and BRFSS respondents. Among SLE patients, 63.2% had ≥1 ACE, and 19.3% had ≥4. ACEs were more prevalent in those who were older, women, Latino or African American, and without college degrees, but not in those with lupus nephritis. In adjusted models, higher ACE levels and ACE domains were associated with worse patient-reported SLE activity, depression, and health status but were not significantly associated with physician-assessed SLE activity, damage, or severity.

Conclusion: Given the association between ACE levels and important patient-reported outcomes in SLE, our study reinforces the need for prevention of ACEs in childhood and for clinical interventions to promote resilience among adults who have experienced ACEs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Adverse Events*
  • African Americans
  • Age Factors
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / diagnosis
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires