Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual's functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

SAMHSA, 2012, Part one: Defining trauma, para. 1

What is Trauma?

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study (1995-1997) is the largest study to date, with more than 17,000 participants, which has linked health risk behavior and disease in adulthood to exposure to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse and household dysfunction during childhood (Felitti, et al., 1998).

The study found that nearly two-thirds of all respondents had at least one adverse childhood experience and 12% of the respondents had four or more adverse childhood experiences.

The study also found a strong graded relationship to the amount of exposure to abuse or household dysfunction and multiple risk factors associated with some of the leading causes of death in adults. The ACE study found a significant relationship between adverse childhood experiences and alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, intimate partner violence, obesity, physical inactivity, depression, suicide attempts, and smoking. Further, the more adverse childhood experiences reported, the more likely a person will develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes, liver disease, stroke, and skeletal fractures. The ACE study illustrates that adverse childhood experiences are more common than acknowledged; it shows the impact that these adverse experiences have on physical and behavioral health later on in life and thus the need for preventative interventions.