Addressing the biological embedding of early life adversities (ELA) among adults through mindfulness: Proposed mechanisms and review of converging evidence

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2022 Mar;134:104526. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2022.104526. Epub 2022 Jan 5.


Early life adversities (ELA) are prevalent and have a profound and adverse impact across the lifespan, including on age-related health outcomes, yet interventions to remediate its adverse impact are scarce. This paper presents evidence for mindfulness training to reduce the elevated mental and physical health risks linked to ELA among adults by targeting biological mechanisms of ELA leading to these adverse health outcomes. We first provide a brief overview of ELA, its adverse health impacts, and mechanisms that might be responsible. Next, we review converging evidence that demonstrates that mindfulness training influences key biological pathways involved in ELA-linked negative health consequences, including (a) brain networks involved in self-regulation, (b) immunity and inflammation, (c) telomere biology, and (d) epigenetic modifications. Further, we review preliminary evidence from mindfulness-based trials that focused on populations impacted by ELA. We discuss limitations of this review and provide recommendations for future research. If effective, a mindfulness-based approach could be an important public health strategy for remediating the adverse mental and physical health consequences of ELA.

Keywords: Aging; Early life adversity; Mechanism; Mindfulness; Reversibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Mindfulness*