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Are Biological Consequences of Childhood Misfortune Detectable Decades Later?

Date: Time: 12:30 pm
Nebraska Union Room: Colonial A
Additional Info: NU
Contact: Deborah Schaben, 402-472-3631, sociology@unl.edu
Childhood adversity can manifest as disease, disability, and death in later life. However, it is unclear whether those adversities accelerate the underlying aging process. If they do, this information could help uncover the mechanisms through which childhood disadvantage shapes adult health, and provide physicians a pre-clinical measure of potential health problems. In this presentation, they use data on adults aged 50 and older in the Health and Retirement Study to assess how childhood exposures, such as socioeconomic disadvantage and risky parental behavior, predict a biomarker of aging, telomere length. The results indicate that, among peers with the same chronological age, adults who experienced early-life adversities are biologically older than those who did not experience childhood adversities. The consequences of childhood adversity on aging differ by type of exposure and population subgroups in important ways. This growing area of research suggests that comprehensive life histories along with the use of biomarkers will be useful in informing intervention and personalized medicine.

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