Narrator: This is Science Today. Adults who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, are at high risk of early mortality and disease. But, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, those health risks are significantly greater when PTSD patients also have a history of early childhood trauma, such as abuse or neglect.
O'Donovan: One of the most important questions is what are the mechanisms by which these psychological experiences in our childhood actually influence us at the cellular level.
Narrator: Psychiatric researcher Aoife O'Donovan explains that childhood trauma is associated with short telomeres, which are protein complexes that protect our DNA. The shorter our telomeres, the greater the risk of aging and disease.
O'Donovan: We found that the group with PTSD in our study had signs of accelerated aging at this cellular level. But it was that only the people with multiple different types of childhood trauma had short telomere length. So, evidence is really accumulating that those early life experiences are really critical.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.