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Childhood trauma and adulthood inflammation: a meta-analysis of peripheral C-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and tumour necrosis factor-α

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642–649
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Volume21
Early online date2 Jun 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

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Abstract

Childhood trauma confers higher risk of adulthood physical and mental illness; however, the biological mechanism mediating this association remains largely unknown. Recent research has suggested dysregulation of the immune system as a possible biological mediator. The present paper conducted a meta-analysis to establish whether early-life adversity contributes to potentially pathogenic pro-inflammatory phenotypes in adult individuals. A systematic search of Pubmed, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Scopus and Medline identified 25 articles for the meta-analysis, including 18 studies encompassing a sample of 16 870 individuals for C-reactive protein (CRP), 15 studies including 3751 individuals for interleukin-6 (IL-6) and 10 studies including 881 individuals for tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Random-effects meta-analysis showed that individuals exposed to childhood trauma had significantly elevated baseline peripheral levels of CRP (Fisher's z=0.10, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.05-0.14), IL-6 (z=0.08, 95% CI=0.03-0.14) and TNF-α (z=0.23, 95% CI=0.14-0.32). Subgroup analyses for specific types of trauma (sexual, physical or emotional abuse) revealed that these impact differentially the single inflammatory markers. Moreover, meta-regression revealed greater effect sizes in clinical samples for the association between childhood trauma and CRP but not for IL-6 or TNF-α. Age, body mass index (BMI) and gender had no moderating effects. The analysis demonstrates that childhood trauma contributes to a pro-inflammatory state in adulthood, with specific inflammatory profiles depending on the specific type of trauma.

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