Prevalence of adverse childhood experiences among individuals aged 45 to 85 years: a cross-sectional analysis of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Population-level prevalence estimates for a broad range of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which are known to affect health across the lifespan, are currently unavailable in Canada. The purpose of this study was to estimate the prevalence of individual ACEs by sociodemographic factors among middle-aged and older adults. METHODS: Data for this cross-sectional analysis were obtained from the first follow-up (2015-2018) of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (baseline recruitment from 2011 to 2015). Participants included individuals aged 45-85 years and residing in the community in the 10 Canadian provinces. Exposure to ACEs was assessed using a retrospective, self-report questionnaire. Logistic regression was used to obtain the adjusted prevalence estimates of ACEs within groups formed by the sociodemographic characteristics and each variable was adjusted for all other sociodemographic variables. RESULTS: Of the 44 817 participants in the first follow-up, 61.6% (weighted) reported exposure to at least 1 ACE. Exposure to physical abuse (weighted prevalence of 25.7%), intimate partner violence (22.4%) and emotional abuse (21.8%) were the most prevalent types of ACEs. Individuals younger than 65 years (born in 1950-1969), with no postsecondary education or education below a bachelor's degree, or with annual household income less than $20 000 reported greater exposure to ACEs. Reporting for many ACEs was higher among women and those of nonheterosexual orientation. Overall, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec reported relatively higher prevalence for several examined categories of ACEs. INTERPRETATION: Adverse childhood experiences were highly prevalent across all demographic groups with substantial heterogeneity in the distribution among the middle and older age population. The high prevalence of ACEs and their potential negative consequences on health and well-being emphasize the need to develop and promote trauma-informed care to assist individuals affected by ACEs.


  • Joshi, Divya
  • Raina, Parminder
  • Tonmyr, Lil
  • MacMillan, Harriet L
  • Gonzalez, Andrea

publication date

  • January 2021