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An increasing number of studies are identifying associations between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and ill health throughout the life course. We aimed to calculate the proportions of major risk factors for and causes of ill health that are attributable to one or multiple types of ACE and the associated financial costs.
In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we searched for studies in which risk data in individuals with ACEs were compared with these data in those without ACEs. We searched six electronic databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, Criminal Justice Databases, and the Education Resources Information Center) for quantitative studies published between Jan 1, 1990, and July 11, 2018, that reported risks of health-related behaviours and causes of ill health in adults that were associated with cumulative measures of ACEs (ie, number of ACEs). We included studies in adults in populations that did not have a high risk of ACEs, that had sample sizes of at least 1000 people, and that provided ACE prevalence data. We calculated the pooled RR for risk factors (harmful alcohol use, illicit drug use, smoking, and obesity) and causes of ill health (cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, anxiety, and depression) associated with ACEs. RRs were used to estimate the population-attributable fractions (PAFs) of risk attributable to ACEs and the disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) and financial costs associated with ACEs. This study was prospectively registered in PROSPERO (CRD42018090356).