Research conducted by Puterman (2014), a specialist in stress and ageing, suggests that those of us who suffered significant trauma and consequential chronic feelings of stress as children may :
a) be more prone to disease and illness as adults
b) live shorter than average lives
Why Might This Be?
According to Puterman, this may be due to the adverse effects the stress of our childhoods had on our body’s cells.
More specifically, Puterman suggests that early, protracted exposure to stress may shorten our telomeres (telomeres are located on the end of our chromosomes).
Why Do Shortened Telomeres Matter?
Telomeres serve to protect our chromosomes and, if shortened by early life stress, do not perform their task so effectively; this may lead to the cells in our body ageing and dying prematurely, Puterman suggests.
Puterman is careful to point out, however, that experiencing stressful events in childhood does not necessarily cause the shortening of telomeres in any simple, direct way, but, rather, the greater the number of traumas we suffer, the greater their duration and the greater their intensity, the higher our risk is that our telomeres will incur damage.
Puterman’s research findings also suggested (based on the study of 4,600 individuals) that social and psychological stressful events that occur during childhood have a more damaging effect on telomeres than do stressors relating to the particular family’s financial situation.
Other Ways Childhood Trauma Adversely Impacts Upon Our Physical Health :
We know, too, that those who have experienced significant childhood trauma are more likely than average to :
- drink excessive amounts of alcohol
- develop drug dependence
- develop eating disorders
- develop obesity
- suffer from extreme stress in adult life
All of the above, of course, may significantly undermine our physical health, and, even, ultimately, lead to terminal disease and illness.
Puterman E. et al. Lifespan adversity and later adulthood telomere length in the nationally representative US Health and Retirement Study. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Oct 18;113(42):E6335-E6342. Epub 2016 Oct 3.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)