According to a new study, physical, sexual or psychological trauma suffered in childhood may lead to a weakened immune system later in life. Adults with weakened immune systems often suffer from poor bone and heart health, as well as a number of other bodily issues.
Janice Kiecolt-Glaser - professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University - conducted the research. The study showed that for some children who experienced serious abuse or adverse experiences early in life, the long-term effect might be a lifespan shortened by seven to 15 years.
Kielcolt-Glaser and a team of researchers looked at 132 healthy older adults who averaged 70 years old. They took blood samples from each person measuring the levels of a cytokine which is a known stress marker - interleukin-6 (IL-6).
The researchers also used a series of surveys to determine the participants' level of depression, health status and whether they had experienced childhood abuse or neglect. Nearly one-third of the people in the study said they'd experienced some form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse during childhood. Participants who said they'd either been abused or suffered adverse experiences as kids showed higher levels of IL-6 than those who did not.
Individuals who reported being abused showed greater levels of depression than those who weren't. The fact that these incidents weakened the immune response is very significant, given that the inflammation caused by high levels of IL-6 has been linked to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, cancers and Alzheimer's disease.