Childhood adversity can shorten lifespan

Aug. 16, 2010 at 7:16 PM
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SAN DIEGO, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Children who experience multiple traumas may develop anxiety and depression that could shorten their lifespan by 7-15 years, U.S. researchers found.

"Our latest research shows that childhood adversity casts a long shadow on one's health and can lead to inflammation and cell aging much earlier than for those who haven't experienced these events," Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of Ohio State University College of Medicine said in a statement.

The study participants completed a questionnaire on depression and answered questions about past child abuse or neglect -- such as losing a parent; witnessing severe marital problems; growing up with a family member with mental illness or alcohol abuse; or lacking a close relationship during childhood with at least one adult.

"We found that childhood adversity was associated with shorter telomeres -- cap and chromosomes that get shorter with age -- and increased levels of inflammation even after controlling for age, caregiving status, gender, body mass index, exercise and sleep," Kiecolt-Glaser said. "Inflammation over time can lead to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers."

Early childhood experiences have lasting, measureable consequences later in life, producing effects that are large enough to be perceptible even in the face of a current major stressor -- caring for a family member with dementia -- Kiecolt-Glaser said.

The study was presented at the American Psychological Association's 118th annual convention in San Diego.

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