Self-Help Topic 1 Adverse Childhood Experiences: Know Your ACE Score

I’ve got a few blogs lined up that fit within the broad category of self-help. I thought today I would make a start with ACE scores.

If you experienced stressful, traumatizing events before age 18, as I did, you may be interested to know these events are commonly referred to as adverse childhood experiences or ACEs. An ACE score is the sum of different categories of events (abuse, neglect and household challenges) and is a widely used measure of cumulative childhood stress.

Based on the landmark research study conducted by CDC-Kaiser, a high ACE score has been linked to a variety of negative health consequences later in life.

Link between ACEs and negative outcomes

An ACE score can range from 0 to 10. My ACE score is 5, which puts me at significant risk for negative health outcomes. I just discovered this info-graphic which allows you to explore risks associated with your ACE Score.

my ACE score
Grey bubble changes based on coloured bubble selected when you visit the page

Based on my score of 5, it might seem like I’m doomed to check off most of the negative health outcomes. Fortunately, it isn’t that simple: resiliency research shows that positive childhood experiences, like having supportive relationships with caring adults, can offset some degree of ACEs. You can also use your ACE risk information to work on improving things you can control:

  • quit smoking
  • use alcohol appropriately
  • increase your physical activity
  • eat healthfully
  • get your annual physical
  • find treatment for mental health concerns

Comment below if you are interested in reading more and let me know which topic(s) above are of interest. Also, you may be interested in my previous blog discussing mental health impacts of sexual violence and intimate partner violence.



6 thoughts on “Self-Help Topic 1 Adverse Childhood Experiences: Know Your ACE Score

  1. One caveat: the original ACE survey was a different test than the one you linked to and quite a bit more complex. I’ve found it on the CDC website, though I have not found the scoring rules.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if we did a survey about the positive aspects of our lives before 18 too? It’s like the “pain as a vital sign” — I thought that was complete stupid crap and I wanted “feeling cared for” to be a vital sign instead. We’re brainwashed to choose something that we can give a pill for, instead of listening to people.
    I have written some about ACE scores too and am glad that you are writing about it!


    1. Thanks for your comment – you are right about the scale/survey. When I originally accessed the CDC information and got my own score, there were some differences in the website and additional documents. I believe the quiz I linked to is good enough to help people flag potential issues that could be impacting them. That being said, I had similar thoughts about the negative framing. Why not also ask about resilience factors?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It would take a while to replicate with 17,000 people. I frame it to patients more as a survival brain from childhood then as a damaged one. That we might need to learn to calm the sympathetic nervous system and still can learn as adults, but also “Good job and be proud that you survived what you survived.”

        Liked by 1 person

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