Stressful early life experiences and immune dysregulation across the lifespan

Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Jan;27(1):8-12. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.06.014. Epub 2012 Jul 6.


There is considerable evidence that stressful early life events influence a variety of physical health problems later in life. Childhood adversity has been linked to elevated rates of morbidity and mortality from a number of chronic diseases. Immune dysregulation may be one potential pathway that explains this link. In this mini-review, we summarize human studies demonstrating that severe early life stressors have lasting immune consequences. We propose a model outlining potential biobehavioral pathways that explain how early life stressors leave people vulnerable to these maladaptive outcomes. Finally, we suggest ideas for future work to test different aspects of this model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / immunology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation* / immunology
  • Inflammation* / psychology
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Physiological / immunology*
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology*
  • Telomere Shortening / immunology