New study finds that people who happen to suffer from childhood abuse and trauma are subjected to early aging than others who don’t experience it. This study on aging is published by the American Psychological Association in its journal Psychological Bulletin.
The study evaluated three typical signs of aging in different people that were puberty, cellular level aging, and structural changes inside the brain. They found that childhood abuse and trauma was one factor associated with all three symptoms.
Katie McLaughlin from Harvard University is a professor of Psychology and the author of this study. She says that exposure to trauma in early childhood can predict the health of a person in later years. It includes both physical and mental health and, in some cases, the risk of certain diseases can also be calculated.
This new study has tried to help recognize violence as a major factor in determining a person’s aging at a biological level.
Previously, there was mixed information if any childhood experience shares a connection with early aging. These studies looked into various factors such as neglect, poverty, etc collectively. in this new study, the researchers were trying to find the independent outcomes of two factors only; threat (abuse, trauma) and deprivation (neglect).
After performing a detailed meta-analysis of more than 80 studies containing 116,000 participants, they came to deduct that threat can induce early puberty and age even at a cellular level. It was identified by the shortened telomeres that are the protective caps typically added to the ends of human DNA. With age, these telomeres are lost.
Interestingly, people who experienced neglect didn’t have any of these things reported. There was no sign of early aging in them.
In another analysis, the research team overviewed 25 studies that included 3,253 participants in order to find out how their early life experiences change the development of their brain. They were able to identify that it was associated with a reduced cortical thickness.
This is a typical sign of early aging because this cortex is worn off with age. But for this phenomenon, more than one adversities were linked. Trauma, abuse, and violence were only linked with the thinning of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. This part of the cortex is typically involved in emotional and social thought processing. Deprivation on the other side was associated with the frontoparietal thinning which is involved in sensory and cognitive information handling.
This early aging could be an evolutionary adaptation because in a risky environment, hitting puberty early will be more of a ‘protective’ mechanism. It would also allow people to reproduce more at an early age. The developmental in the brain may help children to process the idea of a threat or risk which is necessary to keep them safe.
There are many treatments available for children who have experienced childhood abuse and trauma. It is necessary to find out if there is a way to accelerate the emotional healing so that anyone who has experienced anything harrowing could be saved from health-related risks in later years of life.