Adversity is unfavorable fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress. Adversity is correlated to ACEs, putting a person at an elevated risk for a wide range of physical and mental health problems across their life span.
Are Adversity And ACEs The Same Thing?
"ACEs are forms of adversity," said Autumn Clark, Community Health Improvement Coordinator for Montgomery and Morgan County. "Every time someone deals with an ACE, it is further adding to the overall adversity they live with."
In the context of ACEs, adversity refers to circumstances in a child's life including neglect, abuse and family dysfunction. Adversity can also refer to hardships faced by individuals and communities due to natural disaster, violence, discrimination or poverty.
According to the University of California San Francisco, the more traumatic or adverse events children have, the higher the risk for negative health effects and mental health issues that can continue into adulthood.
A study showed that childhood adversity increases the odds of shorter telomeres, structures at the ends of chromosomes that contain repetitive stretches of DNA. Telomeres seal chromosomes at the tips, preventing them from unraveling or sticking together. They also protect a chromosome's DNA sequence as it is being copied during cell division. Because the enzymes that copy DNA can't continue to the very end of the sequence, a bit of DNA is lost each time the chromosome is copied. Telomeres provide a buffer that grows shorter every time a cell divides. Changes in the telomeres have been linked to an increased risk of illnesses in adulthood, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Adversity In The Workplace
Just as mental health can have an impact on employees in the workplace, adversity can too. How employees respond to adversity in the workplace depends on their past experiences. Some may find it easier to overcome adversity than others, but it is important for everyone to learn how to deal with adversity if faced with one.
"People dealing with adverse situations should reach out for support from available resources," Clark said. "Franciscan has a wonderful EAP that makes it possible for employees to get support that they need for free. It will not hurt their job and will likely allow them to get connected to other resources they need."
If you are struggling with adversity, Clark recommended being open to receiving support from others.
"It is easy as an employee to feel like your personal life should stay personal, but that is not possible," Clark said. "Allowing yourself to be human and acknowledge and address the ways your current and past adverse experiences impact you in your professional life will make you a better employee in the long run."
Early intervention, especially in childhood, would be the ideal first step in overcoming adversity, but that is not always possible. Clark has advice on how to handle adversity as an adult.
"The best way to overcome adversity is to address it, even if it happened a long time ago," she said. "Reaching out for supportive resources from mental health professionals is a great place to start. Either use resources from work, find free community resources, or search for your own therapist or help."
Clark said that there are many things that adults can do to help cope with adverse situations and build resilience that do not require financial commitments or much time.
"I would recommend looking into resilience skill building activities – mindfulness practices, nutrition guides, physical activity guides, and other things that encourage healing in your mind and body," she said.
By Ariel Anderson
Social Media Specialist