Child maltreatment and telomere length in middle and older age: retrospective cohort study of 141 748 UK Biobank participants

Ziyi Zhou, Camilla K. M. Lo, Ko Ling Chan, Rachel S. Y. Chung, Jill P. Pell, Helen Minnis, Paul G. Shiels, Patrick Ip, Frederick K. Ho (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

Background There is evidence that child maltreatment is associated with shorter telomere length in early life. Aims This study aims to examine if child maltreatment is associated with telomere length in middle- and older-age adults. Method This was a retrospective cohort study of 141 748 UK Biobank participants aged 37-73 years at recruitment. Leukocyte telomere length was measured with quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and log-transformed and scaled to have unit standard deviation. Child maltreatment was recalled by participants. Linear regression was used to analyse the association. Results After adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, participants with three or more types of maltreatment presented with the shortest telomere lengths (β = -0.05, 95% CI -0.07 to -0.03; P < 0.0001), followed by those with two types of maltreatment (β = -0.02, 95% CI -0.04 to 0.00; P = 0.02), referent to those who had none. When adjusted for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, the telomere lengths of participants with three or more types of maltreatment were still shorter (β = -0.04, 95% CI -0.07 to -0.02; P = 0.0008). The telomere lengths of those with one type of maltreatment were not significantly different from those who had none. When mutually adjusted, physical abuse (β = -0.05, 95% CI -0.07 to -0.03; P < 0.0001) and sexual abuse (β = -0.02, 95% CI -0.04 to 0.00; P = 0.02) were independently associated with shorter telomere length. Conclusions Our findings showed that child maltreatment is associated with shorter telomere length in middle- and older-aged adults, independent of sociodemographic and mental health factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-381
Number of pages5
JournalThe Journal of mental science
Volume23
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2023

Keywords

  • Epidemiology
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • trauma
  • risk assessment
  • comorbidity

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