Childhood Exposure to Violence Tied to Premature Aging


The kids who used to be bullied may suffer from much more emotional and physical scars than what people often assume. In his new report, Idan Shalev – a psychological and neuroscientific expert at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy in Durham, N.C. – states that people who were victims of bullying at a young age might age faster than others. Their DNA presents characteristics linked with advancing age.

Exposure to violence linked to fast aging rate

To study the effect of youth violence on the vulnerability to aging, experts look at the length of telomeres, also known as the caps at each end of each chromosome. Telomere shortening is the sign of cell aging. Researchers examine the DNA samples belonging to a group of twins at the age of 5 and 10. They compare the telomere length to three major kinds of violence: domestic violence, frequent bullying, and physical maltreatment by an adult.

The results show that children with injuries from cumulative violence had significantly shorter telomeres. More strikingly, children who were subjected to various forms of violence experiences the fastest telomere shortening rate.

Scars from violence are not skin deep

Other reports suggest a serious physical erosion of DNA among children who got exposed to bullying and other types of violence in the past. Paul Thompson, Ph.D., a professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, is convinced that childhood violence leaves life-long damages.

Biological factors may be used to explain some neurological differences in children who have been traumatized. Long-term maltreatment might result in harmful effects on the health of children as well as the way in which their brain functions. It’s is, unfortunately, suggested that these damages could be irreversible.

Scientists believe that exposure to violence at a young age put people at risk of rapid aging and younger-onset of diseases in adulthood. The effects of childhood trauma may resurface decades later. Evidence supports that severe stress during childhood could take a toll on children’s immune system aging. This study definitely raises the awareness around the importance of reducing children’s exposure to violence of all kinds.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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