Online Program

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Depression: Assessing the Impact of ACEs on College Students' Depressive Symptoms

Monday, November 2, 2015

Theresa Hunter, MPH, MS, CHES, School of Public Health, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Susan M Smith, EdD, MSPH, Department of Applied Health Science, Indiana School of Public Health Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
Nancy T. Ellis, HSD, MPH, School of Public Health, SPH 116, Indiana University, School of Public Health, Bloomington, IN
Background: While published research has investigated the association between early childhood experiences and negative health behaviors in adults ages 30-65, there is a lack in research that determines whether an association exists between college students’ self-reported adverse childhood experiences and depressive symptoms.

Methods: The study sample included 1,369 undergraduate college students. Participants completed the Life Events and Behaviors Survey that consisted of demographic information, the Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. A logistic regression model was used to test the differences in depression between the three categories of adverse childhood experiences (no adverse childhood experiences, 1-3 adverse childhood experiences, and four or more adverse childhood experiences) when controlling for age, race, sex, sexual orientation, and whether or not a participant received free or reduce lunch.

Results: In the sample, 55.8% participants reported at-least one adverse childhood experience. . In the sample, 605 (44.2%) of participants were in the No ACE Group, 535 (39.0%) were in the 1-3 ACE Group, and 229 (16.7%) were in the 4 or more ACE Group. In the 4 or more ACE Group, 109 (47.6%) were in the Depressed Group. A Chi-square test determined that there was a significantly significant association between CES-D Group and ACE Group (x (1) = 15.738, p < .05). The logistic regression model was statistically significant X2(2) = 32.727, p < .05.


Participants in the 4 or more ACE Group were 2.4 times more likely to be depressed than those in the No ACE Group.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the association between adverse childhood experiences and depressive symptoms among college students. Explain how adverse childhood experiences increase depressive symptoms. List ways that universities can create programs to increase protective factors for student that experienced adverse childhood events.

Keyword(s): College Students, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the P.I. on this research project. This research was done as part of my PhD Dissertation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.