Bullied and abused kids age faster, new study finds
A new study conducted at Duke University found that children who are exposed to bullying and violence have wear and tear on their DNA that is usually associated to that seen in aging.
U.S. News reported that Duke University researchers took data from a British study that tracked 1,100 families with twins born in the 1990s and between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.
The long-term study found that stress related to violence in children affects the length of special DNA sequences called telomeres. Essentially, the more violence a child is exposed to, the faster his or her telomeres eroded, said the study leader Idan Shalev.
According to the study, after 50 to 60 cell divisions, the cell begins to shut itself down because the tel0meres have become too small. This could help explain why abused children are at a heightened risk of mental and physical disorders as adults.
“This is the first time it has been shown that our telomeres can shorten at a faster rate even at a really young age, while kids are still experiencing stress,” Idan Shalev said.
Shalev stated the telomere length gradually declined in all children as they got older. However, children susceptible to numerous sorts of violence – domestic violence, physical abuse or bullying – had a much greater loss in telomere than others. In the study, the length decreased dramatically in 39 children who had experienced multiple types of violence.
“Some of the billions of dollars spent on diseases of aging such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia might be better invested in protecting children from harm,” study co-leader Terrie Moffit said.