Adverse Childhood Experiences, Smoking and Alcohol Use, and Allostatic Load Among People Living with HIV

AIDS Behav. 2020 Jun;24(6):1653-1662. doi: 10.1007/s10461-019-02684-5.


Allostatic load is an indicator of multisystem physiologic dysregulation that may arise from prolonged or accumulated exposure to stress, including adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and chronic stressors persisting into adulthood. People living with HIV (PLWH) may be particularly vulnerable given their high burdens of adversity across the life course. Using data from a cohort of middle aged PLWH, we examined associations between ACEs and two measures of allostatic load. In order to determine whether the negative impact of ACEs on allostatic load operates through increasing the adoption of adverse coping behaviors, we tested for mediation by smoking and alcohol use. PLWH who had experienced 4 or more ACEs had on average higher allostatic load in adulthood compared to those who experienced fewer. Neither smoking nor alcohol use mediated this relationship, however, suggesting alternative mechanisms may be at play.

Keywords: Adverse childhood experiences; Allostatic load; Health behaviors.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Allostasis / physiology*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Smoking