According to the results researchconducted at Washington, Stanford and Harvard Universities (USA), children who were often physically or mentally abused at an early age show biological signs of aging faster than their peers with a healthy childhood.
Scientists have studied three different signs of biological aging – early puberty, cellular aging and changes in brain structure – and found that childhood trauma affects each of them.
Exposure to adverse factors in childhood provokes both mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, and physical health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, in adulthood. Our research shows that childhood abuse can accelerate the aging of the body at a biological level, – said Dr. Katie McLaughlin, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard University.
An important aspect is that not all childhood adverse events have this negative effect. For example, children who lived in difficult economic conditions and / or received little care did not show any of the signs of early aging.
The most aging factor was violence. For example, in children who have been abused and often faced with physical violence or the threat of its use, puberty begins earlier, and aging at the cellular level accelerates. Their telomeres, the protective tails at the ends of our DNA, shorten faster. They do not carry information, but they protect a valuable part of DNA from damage during cell division, which is why they wear out with age.
Accelerating aging may be related to a previously beneficial adaptation mechanism, McLaughlin said. For example, when the environment is full of violence and threats, reaching puberty early can increase the likelihood of humans reproducing before they die and increase the population’s chances of survival. The accelerated development of areas of the brain that play a role in processing emotion can help children identify and respond to threats, keeping them safe in dangerous environments. But in the modern world, this adaptation is much less useful, and the most significant effect from it is the adverse consequences for physical and mental health in adulthood.
Now we need to find out if psychological treatment and social assistance programs can slow this down. [вызванное детскими травмами] accelerated biological aging. If possible, we can prevent many of the long-term health effects at an early age. – sums up Katie McLaughlin.
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