The Counterintuitive Relationship between Telomerase Activity and Childhood Emotional Abuse : Culture and Complexity

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Author(s)

  • Clifton R. Emery
  • Qian-Wen Xie
  • Jessie S. M. Chan
  • Ling-Li Leng
  • Celia H. Y. Chan
  • Kwok-Fai So
  • Ang Li
  • Kevin K. T. Po
  • Zoe Chouliara
  • Cecilia Lai Wan Chan
  • L. P. Yuen
  • Kam Shing Ku
  • Winnie Kung
  • Siu-Man Ng

Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Article number1619
Number of pages12
Journal / PublicationInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume18
Issue number4
Online published8 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Link(s)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: A burgeoning literature has found relationships between telomere length, telomerase activity, and human health and longevity. Although some research links a history of childhood adversity with shortened telomere length, our review found no prior research on the relationship between child maltreatment history and telomerase activity in adulthood. We hypothesized a negative relationship between child maltreatment and telomerase activity and hypothesized that the association would be moderated by sex. METHODS: These relationships were tested on a sample of 262 Hong Kong Chinese adults (200 females versus 62 males) with mild to moderate depression. RESULTS: Counterintuitively, emotional abuse was positively associated with telomerase activity, while other maltreatment types were non-significant. The positive relationship between emotional abuse and telomerase activity was significantly moderated by the sex of the participant. CONCLUSIONS: We advance two possible explanations for this finding (1) a culturally informed resilience explanation and (2) a homeostatic complexity explanation. The two explanations are not mutually exclusive. This trial is registered under Hong Kong Clinical Trial Register number HKCTR-1929. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Emotional abuse was significantly positively associated with telomerase activity. There are at least two non-mutually exclusive explanations for the findings. Simply put, either (1) in the cultural context of Hong Kong emotional abuse was not a risk factor, and/or (2) the conceptualization of telomerase activity as a straightforward indicator of longevity is overly simplistic. The first story we might term a ”resilience explanation” while the second we might call a ”homeostatic complexity” story.

Research Area(s)

  • Child emotional abuse, Child maltreatment, Chinese, Later adulthood, Long-term consequences, Telomerase activity

Citation Format(s)

The Counterintuitive Relationship between Telomerase Activity and Childhood Emotional Abuse : Culture and Complexity. / Emery, Clifton R.; Xie, Qian-Wen; Chan, Jessie S. M.; Leng, Ling-Li; Chan, Celia H. Y.; So, Kwok-Fai; Li, Ang; Po, Kevin K. T.; Chouliara, Zoe; Chan, Cecilia Lai Wan; Choi, Anna W. M.; Yuen, L. P.; Ku, Kam Shing; Kung, Winnie; Ng, Siu-Man.

In: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol. 18, No. 4, 1619, 02.2021.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review