Trauma Inherited


I talk a lot about stress management on this platform for a variety of good reasons: chronic stress is bad for health, better stress management is good for health and well-being, can lead to greater results in the workplace, better relationships, and so forth. Well, one surprisingly good reason to take the stress in your life seriously and try to mitigate bad stress and trauma is because studies have shown stress and trauma can be inherited. Yes, it is possible that you could pass on the stress and trauma to your children.

How on earth is this possible? Well, the field of epigenetics sheds some light on this phenomenon. Our genes (DNA) are not written in stone. Our internal and external environments alter gene expression. Stress and trauma change gene expression. So an adult who has altered gene expression from chronic stress or trauma could pass it on to their offspring. That could make them more prone to stress, trauma, or related health challenges.

Research in People

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the sons of Union Army soldiers (in the Civil War) who were prisoners of war were more likely to die earlier than the sons of soldiers who were not prisoners. And the sons were born AFTER the war had ended. So they didn’t experience any of the consequences of the war directly themselves. 

Other studies, known as the “Hunger Winter” Studies showed that people conceived during a winter famine were more likely to have heart disease when compared to individuals conceived outside of the famine.

Research in Mice

Finally, an animal study with mice showed when the mice had been taught to fear the smell of cherries, their offspring showed signs of anxiety when exposed to the same odor. The offspring had never “learned” to fear the cherries, only the parents. 

So keep this in mind the next time you are struggling to find the motivation to work on your stress. Not only will it benefit you, but it will also benefit your potential offspring. And, as the fields of epigenetics and neuroscience shows, we can literally change our gene express and brain function to promote greater health and well-being. Use the techniques and information on this platform to help!

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