Adults in Philadelphia have experienced high rates of childhood adversity, according to a survey of close to 2,000 city residents.
A tough childhood can have a life-long impact on health and well-being, according to several national studies that tracked people’s health and life achievement.
Researchers call this the ACE score — the number of different “adverse childhood experiences” a person has had. This includes abuse, neglect, witnessing violence, having a parent who’s addicted to drugs.
Large studies have shown a link between a high ACE score, and increased rates of heart disease, cancer and mental illness.
The Institute for Safe Families just released adverse childhood data for Philadelphia. Director Martha Davis said the rates in a representative sample of nearly 2,000 city residents were high.
“One in three grew up in households where there was physical abuse,” Davis said. “One in three grew up in households where somebody was using drugs or alcohol. More than one in three, 40 percent, say that when they were growing up, they witnessed somebody getting shot, stabbed or beaten.”
Davis says many participants in the study answered “yes” to four or more of the questions about adverse experiences.
Davis says the findings point to the need for better early intervention — providing at-risk families with support and parenting strategies, and helping kids overcome adversity in schools.
“Almost half a million Philadelphians have grown up with high levels of adversity and toxic stress,” Davis said. “So this should be a huge call for action, for all of our service system, for our education system, for our healthcare system, to say we need to get together and create an action plan.”
The Institute for Safe Families published the results during a national summit in childhood trauma in Philadelphia this week.