Adverse Childhood Experiences in Medical Students: Implications for Wellness

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15 Scopus citations


Objective: The primary purpose of the study was to assess the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in a cohort of third-year medical students and characterize their childhood protective factors. Methods: The authors developed a web-based anonymous survey distributed to all third-year medical students in one school (N = 98). The survey included the 10-item ACE Study questionnaire, a list of childhood protective factors (CPF) and questions to assess students’ perception of the impact of ACEs on their physical and mental health. The medical school’s IRB approved the student survey as an exempt study. The authors computed descriptive and comparative statistical analyses. Results: Eighty-six of 98 students responded (88% response rate). Forty-four students (51%) reported at least one ACE exposure and 10 (12%) reported ≥ 4 exposures. The latter were all female. The average difference in the ACE score between male and female medical students was − 1.1 (independent t test with unequal variances t(57.7) = − 2.82, P =.007). Students with an ACE score of ≥ 4 were significantly more likely to report a moderate or significant effect on their mental health, compared with students with scores ≤ 3 (chi-square test, P = <.0001). Most students reported high levels of CPF (median score = 13 of a maximum score = 14). ACEs and CPF were inversely associated (Pearson correlation = − 0.32, P =.003). Conclusions: A sizeable minority of medical students reported exposure to multiple ACEs. If replicated, findings suggest a significant vulnerability of these medical students to health risk behaviors and physical and mental health problems during training and future medical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-374
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2019


  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Medical student resilience
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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