RAND Survey Indicates Need to Increase Education about ACEs Potential Health Impacts

A new survey conducted by RAND shed light on Californians’ understanding, and awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their potential health impacts.

ACEs are highly stressful and potentially traumatic experiences that can happen to any of us before we turn 18 years of age, including growing up with a parent struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, witnessing domestic violence, or experiencing abuse or neglect. Toxic Stress is persistent and prolonged exposure to highly stressful traumatic events, like ACEs, that can trigger your body to create more stress hormones than it should, which can cause health and social risks.

Despite 60% surveyed having experienced at least one ACE, and 23% of youth and 30% of parents and caregivers experiencing four or more ACEs, only 12% of youth and 10% of caregivers have heard of the term ACEs and know what the acronym stands for.

These data highlight an urgent need to increase baseline knowledge about ACEs and their potential impacts.

Other notable findings include:

  • Only 39% of youth and 33% of caregivers have thought about whether ACEs and their potential effects could be affecting their daily life.
  • While people with ACEs are significantly more likely to experience mental health problems as adults, only 58% of youth and 52% of caregivers surveyed believed that to be true.
  • 80% of youth and 73% of caregivers surveyed believe that it is possible to heal from potential negative impacts of ACEs. However, only 15% of youth and 21% of caregivers have seen a professional for help with ACEs and toxic stress in the past year.

The survey was conducted to help inform the CA-OSG’s ACEs and Toxic Stress Healing-Centered Campaign—a campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the negative health and social impacts of ACEs and providing support and healing strategies for individuals and communities across the state. The survey also provides baseline data from which the effectiveness of the campaign will be evaluated.

The campaign is one of the first to focus on reaching youth and young adults ages 16-25. Meet a few of the campaign’s youth advisors in our new video.

The full campaign is expected to launch in Summer of 2024.

Funding for this campaign is made possible through California’s Children & Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI)—a five-year, $4.7 billion initiative that is transforming the way California supports children, youth and families. The CYBHI serves as the core of California’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health, a historic investment that unites the efforts of health programs, education and social services with the goal of increasing access to mental health and substance use supports for all children and youth.

To learn more about the campaign—and meet the youth and experts helping shape it—visit https://osg.ca.gov/theacescampaign/.