Introduction We examined whether abuse in childhood and/or adolescence was associated with shorter telomere length in a pooled analysis of 3,232 participants from five diverse cohorts. We also assessed whether religion or spirituality (R/S) could buffer deleterious effects of abuse. Methods Physical and sexual abuse in childhood (age <12) and adolescence (age 12–18) was assessed using the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale and questions from a 1995 Gallup survey. We measured relative leukocyte telomere lengths (RTL) using quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction. We used generalized estimating equations to assess associations of physical and sexual abuse with log-transformed RTL z-scores. Analyses were conducted in each cohort, overall, and stratified by extent of religiosity or spirituality and religious coping in adulthood. We pooled study-specific estimates using random-effects models and assessed between-study heterogeneity. Results Compared to no abuse, severe sexual abuse was associated with lower RTL z-scores, in childhood: -15.6%, 95% CI: -25.9, -4.9; p-trend = 0.04; p-heterogeneity = 0.58 and in adolescence: -16.5%, 95% CI: -28.1, -3.0; p-trend = 0.08; p-heterogeneity = 0.68. Sexual abuse experienced in both childhood and adolescence was associated with 11.3% lower RTL z-scores after adjustment for childhood and demographic covariates (95% CI: -20.5%, -2.0%; p-trend = 0.03; p-heterogeneity = 0.62). There was no evidence of effect modification by R/ S. Physical abuse was not associated with telomere length. Conclusions Sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence was associated with a marker of accelerated biological aging, decreased telomere length. The lack of moderation by R/S may be due to inability to capture the appropriate time period for those beliefs and practices.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)