Inflammation and early life stress: An updated review of childhood trauma and inflammatory markers in adulthood

Mollie Brown*, Courtney Worrell, Carmine M. Pariante

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Inflammation, as a neurobiological consequence of childhood trauma, has frequently been reported across research, however, recent investigations suggest this relationship may be dependent on specificities such as type of trauma, type of inflammatory marker, and additional mediatory variables - such as body mass index (BMI), age, and sex. As an updated version of a previous review by Baumeister et al., the current review comprised a search of PubMed, which identified 37 articles that collectively assessed 4 inflammatory markers (CRP, IL-6, TNFα and IL-1β). A review of the studies revealed predominantly non-significant associations between childhood trauma and elevated levels of all inflammatory markers in adulthood. However, in line with previous research, discrepancies in significance arose when considering type of trauma, type of inflammatory marker, and additional variables. Compared to neglect, abuse showed greater significant associations with elevated inflammatory markers in adulthood, though this was dependent on the individual subtypes (emotional, physical or sexual). Mediation analyses reported BMI as a significant mediator, though, when controlled for, no significant differences were found. Sex differences were reported but investigations were sparse. Future research should investigate the mediatory role of sex differences in the inflammatory effects of childhood trauma. Many studies in the review were restricted by use of the same trauma measure – the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. To assess greater variety of trauma types, future studies should utilize other standardized measures to explore these avenues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number173291
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Volume211
Early online date22 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Childhood trauma
  • Cytokines
  • Early life stress
  • Inflammation
  • Inflammatory markers
  • Psychiatric disorders

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