Lifespan adversity and later adulthood telomere length in the nationally representative US Health and Retirement Study.

TitleLifespan adversity and later adulthood telomere length in the nationally representative US Health and Retirement Study.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsPuterman, E, Gemmill, A, Karasek, D, Weir, DR, Adler, NE, Prather, AA, Epel, ES
JournalProc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Date Published2016 10 18
ISSN Number1091-6490
KeywordsAged, Aged, 80 and over, Cellular Senescence, Female, Humans, Longevity, Male, Middle Aged, Multivariate Analysis, Odds Ratio, Public Health Surveillance, Risk Factors, Stress, Psychological, Telomere, Telomere Shortening, United States

Stress over the lifespan is thought to promote accelerated aging and early disease. Telomere length is a marker of cell aging that appears to be one mediator of this relationship. Telomere length is associated with early adversity and with chronic stressors in adulthood in many studies. Although cumulative lifespan adversity should have bigger impacts than single events, it is also possible that adversity in childhood has larger effects on later life health than adult stressors, as suggested by models of biological embedding in early life. No studies have examined the individual vs. cumulative effects of childhood and adulthood adversities on adult telomere length. Here, we examined the relationship between cumulative childhood and adulthood adversity, adding up a range of severe financial, traumatic, and social exposures, as well as comparing them to each other, in relation to salivary telomere length. We examined 4,598 men and women from the US Health and Retirement Study. Single adversities tended to have nonsignificant relations with telomere length. In adjusted models, lifetime cumulative adversity predicted 6% greater odds of shorter telomere length. This result was mainly due to childhood adversity. In adjusted models for cumulative childhood adversity, the occurrence of each additional childhood event predicted 11% increased odds of having short telomeres. This result appeared mainly because of social/traumatic exposures rather than financial exposures. This study suggests that the shadow of childhood adversity may reach far into later adulthood in part through cellular aging.

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Alternate JournalProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
Citation Key8704
PubMed ID27698131
PubMed Central IDPMC5081642
Grant ListU01 AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R00 HL109247 / HL / NHLBI NIH HHS / United States
T32 AG000246 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R24 AG048024 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
K08 HL112961 / HL / NHLBI NIH HHS / United States
T32 HD007275 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States