Objective To examine the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and support on self-reported work inability of adults reporting disability.

Participants Adults (ages 18-64) who participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 2009 or 2010 and who reported having a disability (n = 13,009).

Design and Main Outcome Measures The study used a retrospective cohort design with work inability as the main outcome. ACE categories included abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) and family dysfunction (domestic violence, incarceration, mental illness, substance abuse, divorce). Support included functional (perceived emotional/social support) and structural (living with another adult) support. Logistic regression was used to adjust for potential confounders (age, sex and race) and to evaluate whether there was an independent effect of ACEs on work inability after adding other important predictors (support, education, health) to the model.

Results ACEs were highly prevalent with almost 75% of the sample reporting at least one ACE category and over 25% having a high ACE burden (4 or more categories). ACEs were strongly associated with functional support. Participants experiencing a high ACE burden had a higher adjusted odds ratio (OR) [95% confidence interval] of 1.9 [1.5–2.4] of work inability (reference: zero ACEs). Good functional support (adjusted OR 0.52 [0.42–0.63]) and structural support (adjusted OR 0.48 [0.41–0.56]) were protective against work inability. After adding education and health to the model, ACEs no longer appeared to have an independent effect. Structural support remained highly protective, but functional support only appeared to be protective in those with good physical health.

Conclusions ACEs are highly prevalent in working-age US adults with a disability, particularly young adults. ACEs are associated with decreased support, lower educational attainment and worse adult health. Health care providers are encouraged to screen for ACEs. Addressing the effects of ACEs on health and support, in addition to education and retraining, may increase ability to work in those with a disability.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in PLOS ONE, v. 11, no. 7, e0157726, p. 1-18.

This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

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Funding Information

Supported by the Department of Veteran Affairs Office of Academic Affiliations Advanced Fellowship Program in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine (SMS-FR) http://www.va.gov/oaa/specialfellows/programs/SF_SCIMinfo.asp?p=16 and the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Institutional Research Training grant T32AA00745530 (LZ) http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-14-015.html.

Related Content

Original data are available for download from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System website. http://www.cdc.gov/brfss/annual_data/annual_data.htm.