Hard times in teens, sicker in middle age

Oct. 28, 2011 at 12:35 AM
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UMEA, Sweden, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Financial and social hard times during adolescence and young adulthood lead to physiological wear and tear during middle age, U.S. researchers suggest.

Dr. Per E. Gustafsson of Umea University in Sweden and colleagues analyzed data for 822 participants beginning at age 16 and covering a 27-year period for social adversity including parental illness and loss, social isolation and exposure to violence, and material adversity including parental unemployment, poor standard of living, low income and financial strain.

They examined the physiological consequences of chronic stress at age 43 based on 12 biological factors linked to cardiovascular regulation -- body fat deposition, lipid metabolism, glucose metabolism, inflammation and neuroendocrine regulation.

The study, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, found early adversity involved a greater risk for adverse life circumstances during adulthood.

The analyses revealed adolescence was a particularly sensitive period for women, and young adulthood was a particularly sensitive period for men.

"Our results support the hypothesis that physiological wear and tear visible in mid-adulthood is influenced by the accumulation of unfavorable social exposures over the life course, but also by social adversity measured around the transition into adulthood, independent of later adversity," Gustafsson said.

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