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Health Indicator Report of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Exposure to ACEs may result in toxic stress responses that can impede a child's development, such as changes in gene expression, changes in brain connectivity and immune function, and changes in the type of coping strategies adopted. While many coping strategies are healthy and help reduce acute stress, some (e.g. smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, using substances, engaging in risky sexual behavior) present additional risks to health and wellbeing. As such, exposure to early adversity can increase the risk of later chronic and infectious health conditions through changes in physiological mechanisms, as well as increased engagement in health risk behaviors, and can ultimately result in premature death.
The most common ACE experienced by adults in Utah was emotional abuse with 38.3% indicating a parent or adult in the home had sworn at them, insulted them, or put them down before the age of 18. The next most prevalent ACEs in Utah are household substance abuse reported by 23.8% of adults and household mental illness reported by 23.7% of adults. Compared with national respondents, Utahns had a higher prevalence of Household Mental Illness (23.7% vs 16.5% nationally), Sexual Abuse (13.9% vs 11.6% nationally), Emotional Abuse (38.3 vs 34.4% nationally), and Physical Abuse (21.4% vs 17.9% nationally). Nationally, there are a higher prevalence of Divorce (27.6% vs 22.8% in Utah), Household Substance Abuse (27.6% vs 23.8% in Utah) and Domestic Violence (17.5% vs 15.7% in Utah).

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Prevalence by Type, Utah vs USA 2013, 2016, 2018, 2020


All questions refer to the time period before respondents were 18 years of age.   Source of national data: Merrick, M.T., Ford, D.C., Ports, K. A., Guinn, A. S. (2018). Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences From the 2011-2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 23 States. JAMA Pediatrics, 172(11), 1038-1044.

Data Sources

  • Utah Data: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Office of Public Health Assessment, Utah Department of Health
  • U.S. Data: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), Division of Behavioral Surveillance, CDC Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services

Data Interpretation Issues

BRFSS Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Module Looking back before you were 18 years of age---. 1) Did you live with anyone who was depressed, mentally ill, or suicidal? 2) Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic? 3) Did you live with anyone who used illegal street drugs or who abused prescription medications? 4) Did you live with anyone who served time or was sentenced to serve time in a prison, jail, or other correctional facility? 5) Were your parents separated or divorced? 6) How often did your parents or adults in your home ever slap, hit, kick, punch or beat each other up? 7) Before age 18, how often did a parent or adult in your home ever hit, beat, kick, or physically hurt you in any way? Do not include spanking. 8) How often did a parent or adult in your home ever swear at you, insult you, or put you down? 9) How often did anyone at least 5 years older than you or an adult, ever touch you sexually? 10) How often did anyone at least 5 years older than you or an adult, try to make you touch sexually? 11) How often did anyone at least 5 years older than you or an adult, force you to have sex? Module Weaknesses: Limited to specific more common adversities; Severity or frequency of potential trauma is unknown; All experiences are weighted equally; Module does not account for protective factors in the past that might prevent or mitigate the negative long-term impacts of childhood adversities.


Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. The ACEs included here are a collection of common experiences that may be traumatic to children and youth. They include abuse, neglect, and household challenges that occur during the first 18 years of life. ACEs have been shown to have a potential impact on future violence, victimization, and perpetration, as well as lifelong health and opportunity. ACEs are common; as nearly two-thirds (61.6%) of surveyed U.S. adults experienced at least one ACE and many adults experienced more than one. ACEs can affect optimal health and development across the lifespan, particularly in the absence of protective factors. However, ACEs are preventable, and when present their effects can be mitigated.


The 2013, 2016, 2018, and 2020 BRFSS respondents who responded affirmatively to the eleven questions in the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Module.


The number of adults aged 18 and above who participated in the 2013, 2016, 2018, and 2020 BRFSS.

Available Services

The Violence and Injury Prevention Program housed in the Utah Department of Health in coordination with the Utah Coalition for Protecting Childhood (UCPC) has developed a State Action Plan for the Primary Prevention of Child Maltreatment in Utah utilizing the CDC's Essentials for Childhood framework. This plan includes specific strategies and approaches to preventing ACEs and mitigating their negative effects by creating safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments for all Utah children. The state plan can be found at This is also a sensitive topic and if you need information or help finding support for your own experiences you can dial 1-800-422-4453.
Page Content Updated On 06/30/2022, Published on 07/07/2022
The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sun, 02 October 2022 6:12:40 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Thu, 7 Jul 2022 09:23:36 MDT