Adverse Childhood Experiences and Blood Pressure in Women in the United States: A Systematic Review.

Journal Article (Systematic Review;Journal Article)


Elevated blood pressure is a leading contributor to adverse cardiovascular outcomes. Some studies suggest there is an association between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and subsequent elevated blood pressure in adulthood. The literature specific to ACEs and blood pressure in women has not been synthesized; thus the purpose of this systematic review was to examine what is known about the association between ACEs and blood pressure in women living in the United States.


In collaboration with a medical librarian, a systematic search of the literature published between January 1998 and December 2019 was conducted. Original, peer-reviewed publications were identified from PubMed, CINAHL, and PsycINFO databases. Studies were excluded if they (1) were conducted outside the United States, (2) measured acute stress or adult stressors, or (3) measured childhood- or pregnancy-related outcomes.


Of 1740 articles, 12 publications met criteria for inclusion in this study, 8 of which were from cohort studies. Racial and ethnic diversity was limited, with half of the articles in this review consisting of samples that were majority white. Of the studies that used a self-reported history of hypertension, 60% obtained significant associations with ACEs, compared with only 30% of the studies that had objective blood pressure data. ACEs were associated with lower blood pressure in 3 studies.


More research is needed to elucidate the relationship between ACEs and elevated blood pressure. Inconsistencies in the findings may be related to the measurement of blood pressure, assessment of ACEs, and population characteristics. Future studies should incorporate diverse population-representative samples with consideration for sex- or race-specific stressors such as pregnancy or racism and their potential influence on blood pressure. Health care providers may consider the history of ACEs as part of screening for cardiovascular risk factors among female patients, especially younger women presenting with elevated blood pressure.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Scott, J; McMillian-Bohler, J; Johnson, R; Simmons, LA

Published Date

  • January 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 66 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 78 - 87

PubMed ID

  • 33576175

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8170683

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1542-2011

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1526-9523

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/jmwh.13213


  • eng