Stress that Endures: Influence of Adverse Childhood Experiences on Daily Life Stress and Physical Health in Adulthood

J Affect Disord. 2021 Apr 1:284:38-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2021.02.018. Epub 2021 Feb 5.


Background: Understanding the influence of ACEs on reported daily stress is needed to further address the role of ACEs on adult health and well-being.

Methods: Data from 3,235 adults in the Midlife in the US (MIDUS) (Wave 1 (1995-1996) and Wave II (2004-2006)) were used. ACEs included emotional and physical abuse, household dysfunction, and financial strain. Daily stress was assessed using the National Study of Daily Experiences survey. Generalized Estimating Equations were used to examine the relationship between ACEs and Daily Stress.

Results: ACE exposure was associated with higher number of reported stressors per day (p<.05), stressor severity (p<.05), number of physical symptoms reported (p<.05), and negative affect (p<.05). ACE count was significantly associated with multiple stressor types (OR=1.73, 95% 1.05-2.82) and number of days reported with stressor (RR=1.14, 95% 1.00-1.30). Abuse specifically was associated with a higher number of days reported with a stressor (RR=1.23, 95% CI 1.16 - 1.30).

Limitations: Assessment of ACEs is retrospective and self-reported. Secondly, this data is limited by ACE category. Specifically, sexual abuse and other forms of family dysfunction were not included in this dataset.

Conclusions: ACEs are associated with increased report of daily stress as an adult, reported physical symptoms as a result of stress, and reports of poor negative affect in adulthood. These findings highlight the role that ACEs play in the occurrence of reported daily stress during adulthood. Further investigation is needed to establish treatment and interventions for individuals who have experienced ACEs to avoid worsening health conditions and promote positive coping skills.

Keywords: Daily stress; adverse childhood experiences; longitudinal cohort.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Humans
  • Physical Abuse
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology