Consequences of Toxic Stress on the Body

Short Term

The consequences of ACEs are not limited to chronic health conditions seen later in life. Health and behavioral outcomes in children experiencing adversity may manifest as developmental delay, failure to thrive, or sleep disruption in infants; asthma, learning difficulties, or behavioral problems in school-age children; and obesity, frequent headaches, or engaging in risky behavior as adolescents. If adversity is addressed early enough in life children have the opportunity to counter the negative effects of exposure to adversity by developing resilience and healthy coping mechanisms with the support of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships.

Long Term

The original ACE Study identified linkages between ACEs and a long list of poor outcomes. The CDC currently recognizes over 40 outcomes relating to ACEs in a dose-response relationship, meaning the more ACEs a person has the higher their risk for any number of poor health, behavior, or life potential indicators.

Poor health outcomes identified in the ACE Study:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Depression
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Fetal death
  • Financial stress
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Poor work performance
  • Risk of intimate partner violence
  • Risk of sexual violence
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies


Those who have experienced 4 or more ACEs were 2.2 times more likely to smoke than someone with an ACE score of 0. They were also 7.4 times as likely to consider themselves an alcoholic, 4.7 times as likely to have used illicit drugs, 1.6 times as likely to have diabetes, 1.9 times as likely to have had cancer, and 12.2 times as likely to have attempted suicide.

ACEs in Snohomish County