Study Suggests People Who Experienced Childhood Trauma May Age Faster


By Silvia Pittman

A recent study shows childhood trauma forever changes your body — making it age faster than people who have not dealt with trauma. The researchers said this applies to children who were subjected to abuse and violence. According the results of the research, trauma often led to early puberty, cellular aging and changes in brain structure.

In the past, researchers had mixed findings in studies looking at the effects of adversity on children. However, although that research focused on many different factors, this new study zeroed in on “threat-related adversity, such as abuse and violence, and deprivation-related adversity, such as physical or emotional neglect or poverty.”

Scientists came to this new conclusion by doing meta-analysis on nearly 80 studies that all together included more than 116,000 participants.

A second study used systemic analysis to look at 23 other studies with a total of 3,253 participants.

The lead scientists say the results of this research emphasize the need to offer early intervention to known victims of abuse and violence because early aging as a result of trauma may be the connection between a higher likelihood of later illness.

Exposure to adversity in childhood is a powerful predictor of health outcomes later in life — not only mental health outcomes like depression and anxiety, but also physical health outcomes like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. — Katie McLaughlin, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Harvard University

The APA explained that in the United States, childhood trauma is common. These are events that include “sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, community and school violence, medical trauma, motor vehicle accidents, acts of terrorism, war experiences, natural and human-made disasters, suicides, and other traumatic losses.”

American children witness community violence at an estimated rate of 39 to 85%. Exposure to sexual abuse sits at about 25 to 43%

Meanwhile, 60% of adults say they experienced abuse or other difficult family circumstances as a child

Experts also emphasize that trauma isn’t so much the event itself, but the response to an event where one’s ability to cope is jeopardized


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