Background There is a salient relationship between exposure to childhood traumatic events and negative health behaviours, and health status. The aim of this study was to identify the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in a group of university students in Turkey and to evaluate the association of ACEs , with some health consequences including health risk behaviours.
Methods This is a descriptive cross-sectional study. 2257 students of 5 universities in Turkey were enrolled into the study between the years 2012–2013. A questionnaire modified from the ACE Questionnaire developed by CDC and Kaiser Permanente was used in the study. The questionnaire includes 53 questions on sociodemographic characteristics, household dysfunction, childhood maltreatment, health risk behaviours, somatic complaints and health status.
Results 47.9% of the 2257 respondents were male and 52.1% were female. The mean age of respondents was 20.1 years. The overall prevalence of childhood physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, emotional neglect and physical neglect was 21.1%, 7.9%, 9.8%, 8.8% and 5.7% respectively. 5.2% of respondents had divorced or separated parents. The overall prevalence of depression or suicide attempt, problem alcohol use, history of street drug use and involvement in crime or imprisonment in household members was 9.3%, 6.4%, 3.4% and 10.3% respectively. The ACE scores indicate that half of all respondents had a history of at least one ACE. ACE score was positively associated with health risk behaviours. The risk of smoking, harmful alcohol using and drug using increases dependently on the ACE score. Some health problems particularly emotional problems were associated with ACE score of the participants.
Conclusions This study suggests that ACE prevalence, health risk behaviours and certain health problems are high in a group of young adults in Turkey. The data from this study does not only provide information about the magnitude of the problem but also evidence that underlines the need to prioritise child maltreatment besides.
- child maltreatment
- adverse childhood experience
- child advocacy
- health surveys