Chronic Stress and Adversity

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared a bold message: negative childhood experiences, also known as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), have long lasting health effects throughout the lifespan of an individual.  Chronic and unpredictable stress-inducing events are linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, and early death.  Exposure to such events include: absence of a parent due to divorce, separation or sudden death; enduring verbal, physical or sexual abuse; and incarceration of a parent or guardian.

A landmark study in 1995 by doctors Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda showed that individuals who faced four or more types of ACEs were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 460 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those who had not experienced these trauma- and stress-inducing events.

“It doesn’t really matter what the stressor is, whether it’s poverty or chronic abuse or the bully on the bus – stress impacts how the structure and architecture of the brain forms” said science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa.  To learn more about how the consequences of the toxic stress caused by trauma damages kids’ social-emotional development, as well as their neurobiology click here.

Two of Metta Fund’s grantees, Center for Youth Wellness and HOPE SF, are leading the charge to shape local policy and practice to transform the lives of children and families affected by toxic stress.  Through research and advocacy, Center for Youth Wellness aims to revolutionize the clinical model of care to recognize the impact of adverse experiences on the health and well-being of children.  HOPE SF, incorporates a place-based strategy led by community members themselves to transform their neighborhoods by de-escalating chaos and stress, building social cohesion and fostering community resilience over time.