Physical or emotional abuse during childhood accelerates the body's ageing process, suggests a new research.
Cellular aging remains somewhat of a mystery, although there is growing evidence that over time, the DNA within cells begins to show signs of aging.
One of these signs is the shortening of telomeres, which are DNA "caps" at the end of chromosomes that promote cellular stability.
Telomere length is a measure of biological aging because telomeres shorten progressively with each cell division.
Shorter telomere lengths have been linked to a variety of aging-related medical conditions including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Stress and trauma such as childhood abuse and neglect are risk factors for several medical and psychiatric illnesses, and stress is known to promote cellular aging.
So, Audrey Tyrka and her colleagues from Butler Hospital and Brown University examined the DNA of healthy adults who had a history of childhood maltreatment and found they had shorter telomeres than those who did not experience child maltreatment.
Tyrka said that the findings "suggest the possibility that early developmental experiences may have profound effects on biology that can influence cellular mechanisms at a very basic level and even lead to accelerated aging."
The study has been published in Biological Psychiatry.