Monday, December 06, 2010

Tough childhoods, emotional reactivity, depression and anxiety

To some extent everybody suffers from stress but some people seem to get more worked up about it than others, something psychologists call emotional, or stress, reactivity. Psychologists have known for a long time that adverse childhood experiences can make people more prone to suffer from depression and anxiety as adults and some think that increased emotional reactivity is one of the ways it might do this. A team of researchers from Harvard School of Public Health looked into this in a study of 268 men who were studied from late adolescence over a seventy-year period. They found that people with better overall childhood environments and a greater number of environmental strengths were at a smaller risk of developing depression or anxiety as adults. Families from poorer backgrounds and with childhood environments characterized by greater conflict and adversity had higher emotional reactivity and higher emotional reactivity in turn predicted the development of adult mood and anxiety disorders.

McLaughlin, Katie A. ... [et al] - Childhood social environment, emotional reactivity to stress, and mood and anxiety disorders across the life course Depression and anxiety 27(12), 1087-1094

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