Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) have been linked to a variety of addictive behaviors. The recent adaptation of the ACE measure by the World Health Organization (WHO) allows for the assessment of the negative role of additional adverse experiences, such as extra-familial violence. To date, the relationship between extra-familial violence and addictive behaviors has not been assessed. We report the contribution of ACEs, including the new scales for extra-familial violence, on the risk for mental health problems and addictive behaviors by gender in a sample of young adults in Tunisia. We conducted a cross sectional study in Tunisia during 2014, where we recruited 1200 young university adults who completed the validated Arabic version of the WHO ACE questionnaire in a university setting. Results indicated that intra-familial adversities were associated with increased risk for addictive behaviors, particularly in males. ACEs were also associated with increased risk for mental health problems with women showing more difficulties than men. Exposure to peer, community and collective violence was higher in males than in females and logistic regression confirms that exposure to extra-familial violence increased the risk for addictive behaviors both in male and females by two to three-fold. Mental health problems were associated with peer violence and substance abuse in males, but not in females. Results demonstrate for the first time the contribution of exposure to extra-familial violence on risk for addictive behaviors. Results highlight the need for addressing mental health and addiction in a community with high burden of adversity and violence.
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