Cut Short

By Jim McVeagh 21/11/2009

BBC News reports on a fascinating study that demonstrates that victims of child abuse may have accelerated aging.

Telomeres are relatively short sections of specialised DNA that sit at the ends of all our chromosomes.They have been compared to the plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces that prevent the laces from unravelling.

Each time a cell divides, its telomeres shorten and the cell becomes more susceptible to dying.

The latest study suggests psychological trauma early in life could store up similar problems for the future.

The study of 31 people who reported an abusive childhood showed that they had shortened telomeres and were therefore susceptible to accelerated cell death and concomitant illness and accelerated aging.

It has been my experience that people who have had abusive childhoods do seem to age faster than average. Unfortunately these people also tend to be smokers, lead poor lifestyles and have high levels of stress and mental illnesses. All of these things have also been shown to shorten telomeres, leading to premature aging. It is therefore not certain from this small study that this effect is a direct result of childhood trauma, or a result of the personality damage and poor lifestyle choices that childhood abuse produces.

Regardless of the actual cause of reduced telomere length, this is just another illustration of the devastation that the blight of child abuse creates.

Just one more reason to focus our energies on eradicating this evil.


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