You’ve heard the saying that when a child goes through a stressful experience, they grow up faster?
Well it’s actually true.
A new study finds that stress can accelerate biological aging in childhood. Kids who have gone through violent experience age faster on a cellular level.
“Those kids are ‘older’ than they are supposed to be,” said study leader Idan Shalev, a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University.
Researchers examined a portion of DNA called telomeres, which can basically act as a molecular “clock”.
Several studies have found that adults who experienced violence as children tend to have shorter telomeres than those with peaceful childhoods.
Researchers took DNA samples of 236 children and measured the length of each child’s telomeres at age 5 and age 10. The results of the DNA analysis showed that children in the final group, those who had experienced two or more types of violence, had significantly faster telomere shortening between ages 5 and 10 on average than the other children.
The violence does not have to be physical, such as the stress involved when a child is being bullied. The telomere shortening is a result of cumulative stress.
The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.