Childhood adversity and adult cellular aging

A study examines links between childhood adversity and cellular aging in adulthood. The shortening of telomeres, which are protective structures that cap the ends of chromosomes, is thought to be a marker of cellular aging and has been linked with stressful events in childhood and adulthood. However, few studies have explored the relationship between telomere length and the accumulation of stress throughout childhood and adulthood. Eli Puterman and colleagues compared the salivary gland telomere length of 4,598 people, age 50 or older, from the US Health and Retirement Study with the participants’ self-reported financial, traumatic, and social stresses from childhood and adulthood. The likelihood of a participant displaying short telomeres later in life increased with the cumulative number of lifetime stressors, driven mainly by the amount of childhood adversity. The likelihood of a participant having short telomeres increased by 11% for each additional stressor experienced during childhood. Compared with childhood financial problems, social or traumatic stress during childhood had a greater likelihood of being associated with short telomeres. Individual stressful events did not appear to be related to telomere length. According to the authors, the study bolsters previous findings that childhood adversity may influence cellular aging in adulthood. - Read at PNAS.org

Article #15-25602: “Lifespan adversity and later adulthood telomere length in the nationally representative US Health and Retirement Study,” by Eli Puterman et al.