University of Oulu

Lähdepuro, A., Savolainen, K., Lahti-Pulkkinen, M., Eriksson, J. G., Lahti, J., Tuovinen, S., … Räikkönen, K. (2019). The Impact of Early Life Stress on Anxiety Symptoms in Late Adulthood. Scientific Reports, 9(1).

The impact of early life stress on anxiety symptoms in late adulthood

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Author: Lähdepuro, Anna1; Savolainen, Katri1; Lahti-Pulkkinen, Marius1,2,3;
Organizations: 1Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
2Queen’s Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
3Chronic Disease Prevention Unit, Department of Public Health Solutions, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
4Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
5Folkhälsan Research Center, Helsinki, Finland
6Children’s Hospital, Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
7PEDEGO Research Unit, MRC Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-09-24


Early life stress (ELS) may increase the risk of anxiety throughout the life course. Whether this effect extends to late adulthood is poorly known. In our study comprising 1872 participants from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study born in 1934–1944, we investigated the association of various forms of ELS and their accumulation with self-reported anxiety symptoms at the age of 65–77 years. Data on childhood socioeconomic status and separation from parents were based on national registers for all participants. Information on self-reported emotional and physical trauma, parental divorce, and death of a family member in childhood was obtained from 1277 participants. We found that experiencing emotional trauma, physical trauma, and low socioeconomic status in childhood were associated with increased anxiety symptoms in late adulthood [B = 0.44 (95% CI = 0.31–0.58); B = 0.33 (95% CI = 0.20–0.46); B = 0.10 (95% CI = 0.01–0.19), respectively]. These associations remained significant even after controlling for other forms of ELS. Accumulation of early life stress also increased the levels of late-adulthood anxiety symptoms and the risk of anxiety regarded as clinically significant. Screening for potentially stressful childhood experiences in elderly populations may help identifying individuals with increased anxiety symptoms and planning preventive and therapeutic interventions for those exposed to ELS.

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Series: Scientific reports
ISSN: 2045-2322
ISSN-E: 2045-2322
ISSN-L: 2045-2322
Volume: 9
Article number: 4395
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-40698-0
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
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