Early-life stress and reproductive cost: A two-hit developmental model of accelerated aging?

Med Hypotheses. 2016 May;90:41-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2016.03.002. Epub 2016 Mar 11.


Two seemingly independent bodies of research suggest a two-hit model of accelerated aging, one highlighting early-life stress and the other reproduction. The first, informed by developmental models of early-life stress, highlights reduced longevity effects of early adversity on telomere erosion, whereas the second, informed by evolutionary theories of aging, highlights such effects with regard to reproductive cost (in females). The fact that both early-life adversity and reproductive effort are associated with shorter telomeres and increased oxidative stress raises the prospect, consistent with life-history theory, that these two theoretical frameworks currently informing much research are tapping into the same evolutionary-developmental process of increased senescence and reduced longevity. Here we propose a mechanistic view of a two-hit model of accelerated aging in human females through (a) early-life adversity and (b) early reproduction, via a process of telomere erosion, while highlighting mediating biological embedding mechanisms that might link these two developmental aging processes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Aging, Premature / physiopathology*
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Child
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Longevity / physiology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reproductive Health*
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Telomere Shortening / physiology*


  • Hormones