The impact of adverse childhood experiences and recent life events on anxiety and quality of life in university students

Davies, Emma; Read, John and Shevlin, Mark. 2021. The impact of adverse childhood experiences and recent life events on anxiety and quality of life in university students. Higher Education, ISSN 0018-1560 [Article]

Beyond Adversity, Davies et al, 2021, Higher Education.pdf - Accepted Version

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Abstract or Description

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been repeatedly associated with a wide range of physical and mental health issues. Research has indicated high levels of anxiety and depression among university students, and a few studies have documented the relationship between ACEs and anxiety in the university student population. This study surveyed first year students at a university located in the most ethnically diverse district in England, with
the second highest poverty rate. Eight hundred and fifty-eight responded; a response rate of 12%. The survey included questions about adverse childhood events, recent life stressors, current deprivation, quality of life, positive physical health and positive mental health, and used the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale, a standardised measure. Thirty-seven percent of the responding students met the diagnosis for generalised anxiety disorder. In a
multivariate multiple regression model, life stressors and childhood adversities were significantly associated with higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of physical and mental health. Only childhood adversities significantly predicted lower levels of quality of life.
The findings highlight the importance of considering adverse childhood experiences in enhancing the wellbeing of the student population. Given the demographics of the student population at the University of East London, the high rates of ACEs and anxiety are likely to partially reflect poverty and racism. The implications of the findings for trauma informed policies and practices in universities are discussed.

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This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at:

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1 October 2021Accepted
1 December 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

07 Jan 2022 14:51

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01 Dec 2022 02:26

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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