Lack of affection for one's children could lead to cardiovascular disease for the offspring when they become adult, a new study ahead of the World Heart Day has warned.
The "toxic" stress has been linked to elevated cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and other physical conditions posing a significant health risk.
A new UCLA-led study examines the effects of abuse and lack of parental affection across the body's entire regulatory system and finds a strong biological link of how negative early life experiences affect physical health.
The study is published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings suggest that parental warmth and affection protect one against the harmful effects of toxic childhood stress. The lingering effects of childhood abuse can be linked to age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Among other things, this could have an effect on long-term health care costs.
"Our findings suggest that there may be a way to reduce the impact abuse has, at least in terms of physical health," said Judith E Carroll, a research scientist at the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA, and the study's lead author.
"If the child has love from parental figures they may be more protected from the impact of abuse on adult biological risk for health problems than those who don't have that loving adult in their life."
K Srinath Reddy, president World Heart Foundation said that there was a physiological and behavioural pathway that could trigger the risk.
The researchers studied 756 adults who had participated in a study called Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults. They measured 18 biological markers of health risk, such as blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormone, cholesterol, waist circumference, inflammation, and blood sugar regulation, and added up their risks across these markers to create an index.
"It is our hope that this will encourage public policy support for early interventions," Carroll said.