Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Association With Current Health Among Adolescents in Malawi

Rachel Kidman , Stony Brook University
Luciane Piccolo, Stony Brook University, State University of New York (SUNY)
Hans-Peter Kohler, University of Pennsylvania

Childhood adversity is robustly associated with poor health across the life course. However, very few studies have examined the prevalence and implications of childhood adversity in low- and middle-income countries, where poverty and HIV are often endemic. This study uses a standardized instrument to measure adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among adolescents in Malawi. Respondents (age 10-16; N=2,089) were interviewed in their local language and health measures taken. Adolescents reported experiencing a high burden of adversity over their lifetime (i.e., reporting 5 ACEs on average). Exposure to each additional adversity was significantly associated with mental health outcomes (OR 1.21 for depression, OR 1.20 for PTSD) and self-reported health ratings. However, ACEs did not demonstrate a graded relationship with obesity, stunting or grip strength. These patterns are quite consistent with evidence from high-income countries, and suggest that primary prevention of ACEs should be a priority to ensure lifelong health in low-resources settings.

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 Presented in Session 63. International Perspectives on Adverse Childhood Experiences and Child/Youth Well-being