Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Community Physicians: What We've Learned

Perm J. 2020:24:19.099. doi: 10.7812/TPP/19.099. Epub 2020 Jan 24.


Introduction: The prevalence of childhood trauma, as measured by the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study questionnaire, has been studied in a wide variety of community settings. However, little is known about physicians' familiarity with and use of the ACE questionnaire or the prevalence of childhood trauma in the physician community.

Objective: To survey a convenience sample of community-based physicians and resident physicians to assess for familiarity with and use of the ACE questionnaire in clinical practice and to measure the prevalence of their own ACEs.

Methods: An electronic survey was created and disseminated that included demographic questions, questions about physician awareness and use of the ACE questionnaire in clinical practice, and the 10-point ACE questionnaire.

Results: Most physicians surveyed (81%) reported they had never heard of the ACE questionnaire. Even fewer (3%) reported using the questionnaire in clinical practice. Most physicians (55.5%) reported no personal history of ACEs. Physicians reporting a history of childhood trauma reported a wide range of ACE scores (1-9). Compared with men, women reported a statistically higher number of ACEs (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: In this sample of community physicians, familiarity with and clinical use of the ACE questionnaire was low. Most physicians surveyed reported no personal history of childhood trauma. Of physicians reporting a history of childhood trauma, women were disproportionately affected. Physicians in this study reported a lower prevalence of ACEs than the population they serve. Physicians must become better educated and actively address the effects of ACEs on their patients and on themselves.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Mass Screening / standards
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult