To test the association between sleep duration and telomere length in a pediatric population.
We analyzed cross-sectional data for 1567 children from the age 9 study wave of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a population-based birth cohort of children born between 1998 and 2000 in large American cities (population >200 000). We measured telomere length using quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and children's typical nightly sleep duration was reported by their primary caregivers. Using linear regression, we estimated the association between sleep duration and telomere length both in unadjusted models and adjusting for a number of covariates.
We found that children with shorter sleep durations have shorter telomeres than children with longer sleep durations. Each hour less of nightly sleep duration is associated with having telomeres that are 0.015 log-kilobases per chromosome shorter (P < .05). We found no difference in this association by race, sex, or socioeconomic status.
We provide preliminary evidence that children with shorter sleep durations have shorter telomeres. This finding is consistent with a broader literature indicating that suboptimal sleep duration is a risk for increased physiological stress and impaired health. Future research should address the limitations of our study design by using longitudinal study designs and telomere measurements, measuring sleep duration via polysomnography or actigraphy, and assessing the intermediate biological mechanisms of the link between sleep and telomere dynamics.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the costs associated with delirium in critically ill children.
DESIGN: Prospective observational study.
SETTING: An urban, academic, tertiary-care PICU in New York city.
PATIENTS: Four-hundred and sixty-four consecutive PICU admissions between September 2, 2014, and December 12, 2014.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: All children were assessed for delirium daily throughout their PICU stay. Hospital costs were analyzed using cost-to-charge ratios, in 2014 dollars. Median total PICU costs were higher in patients with delirium than in patients who were never delirious ($18,832 vs $4,803; p < 0.0001). Costs increased incrementally with number of days spent delirious (median cost of $9,173 for 1 d with delirium, $19,682 for 2-3 d with delirium, and $75,833 for > 3 d with delirium; p < 0.0001); this remained highly significant even after adjusting for PICU length of stay (p < 0.0001). After controlling for age, gender, severity of illness, and PICU length of stay, delirium was associated with an 85% increase in PICU costs (p < 0.0001).
CONCLUSIONS: Pediatric delirium is associated with a major increase in PICU costs. Further research directed at prevention and treatment of pediatric delirium is essential to improve outcomes in this population and could lead to substantial healthcare savings.
Epigenetics, and especially DNA methylation, have recently become provocative biological explanations for early-life environmental effects on later health. Despite the large increase in papers on the topic over the last few years, many questions remain with regards to the biological feasibility of this mechanism and the strength of the evidence to date. In this review, we examine the literature on early-life effects on epigenetic patterns, with special emphasis on social environmental influences. First, we review the basic biology of epigenetic modification of DNA and debate the role of early-life stressful, protective, and positive environments on gene-specific, system-specific, and whole-genome epigenetic patterns later in life. Second, we compare the epigenetic literatures of both humans and other animals and review the research linking epigenetic patterns to health in order to complete the mechanistic pathway. Third, we discuss physical environmental and social environmental effects, which have to date, generally not been jointly considered. Finally, we close with a discussion of the current state of the area's research, its future direction, and its potential use in pediatric health.
OBJECTIVE: Child-rearing environments have been associated with morbidity in adult rhesus monkeys. We examine whether such links are also seen with leukocyte telomere length.
METHODS: To determine telomere length in leukocytes, blood was collected from 11 adult female monkeys aged 7 to 10 years who had been exposed to different rearing environments between birth and 7 months. Four had been reared with their mothers in typical social groups composed of other female monkeys, their offspring, and 1 to 2 adult male monkeys. The other 7 had been reared in either small groups of peers or individual cages with extensive peer interaction daily. After 7 months, all shared a common environment.
RESULTS: Telomere lengths were longer for those adults who had been reared with their mothers in social groups (median = 16.0 kb, interquartile range = 16.5-15.4) than for those who were reared without their mothers (median = 14.0 kb, interquartile range = 14.3-12.7; 2.2 kb/telomere difference, p < .027).
CONCLUSIONS: This observation adds to emerging knowledge about early adverse child-rearing conditions and their potential for influencing later morbidity. Because newborns were randomly assigned to the mother or other rearing conditions, the findings are not confounded by other conditions that co-occur with adverse child-rearing environments in humans (e.g., prenatal stress, nutrition and health as well as postnatal nutrition and negative life experiences over and above rearing conditions).
Recently, a new research agenda emphasizing interactions between social factors and health has emerged. The term social determinant of health often refers to any nonmedical factor directly influencing health. Health across the life span is strongly and adversely affected by social disadvantage. Research in epigenetics indicates that alterations in DNA methylation may provide a causal link between social adversity and health disparity. Likewise, accelerated loss of telomeres is correlated with chronic stress. Research is still required to develop an understanding of the role of epigenetics and perturbed telomere function in linking social adversity with health outcome.
Disadvantaged social environments are associated with adverse health outcomes. This has been attributed, in part, to chronic stress. Telomere length (TL) has been used as a biomarker of chronic stress: TL is shorter in adults in a variety of contexts, including disadvantaged social standing and depression. We use data from 40, 9-y-old boys participating in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to extend this observation to African American children. We report that exposure to disadvantaged environments is associated with reduced TL by age 9 y. We document significant associations between low income, low maternal education, unstable family structure, and harsh parenting and TL. These effects were moderated by genetic variants in serotonergic and dopaminergic pathways. Consistent with the differential susceptibility hypothesis, subjects with the highest genetic sensitivity scores had the shortest TL when exposed to disadvantaged social environments and the longest TL when exposed to advantaged environments.
Researchers have proposed a genetic differential sensitivity to social environmental (GDSE) model positing that individuals with certain genetic makeups are more sensitive to favorable and unfavorable environmental influences than those without these genetic makeups. We discuss several issues facing researchers who want to use GDSE to examine health: (1) the need for greater theorizing about the social environment to properly understand the size and direction of environmental influences; (2) the potential for combining multiple genetic markers to measure an individual's genetic sensitivity to environmental influence; (3) how this model and exogenous shocks deal with gene-environment correlations; (4) implications of this model for public health and prevention; and (5) how life course and developmental theories may be used to inform GDSE research.
Most studies of human molecular genetics and social environment interactions on health have relied heavily on the classic diathesis-stress model that treats genetic variations and environments as being either "risky" or "protective." The biological susceptibility model posits that some individuals have greater genetic reactivity to stress, leading to worse outcomes in poor environments, but better outcomes in rich environments. Using a nontruncated measure of a chronic environmental stressor--socioeconomic status--measured by education, and two polymorphisms (5-HTTLPR and STin2 VNTR) of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTT), we find strong evidence that some women are genetically more reactive to the environment, resulting in a crossover of risks of postpartum depression for the most reactive groups. We discuss how our approach and findings provide a framework for understanding some of the confusion in the gene-environment interaction literature on stress, 5-HTT, and depression.