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Objectives

Severe early life stress (ELS) is a well-known risk factor for mental health disorders later in life. Not only mental health disorders are affected by ELS but early life stressors can also induce physical and biological changes increasing the risk for several noncommunicable diseases including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Methods

This review focuses on the cohesive studies of individuals from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study born 1934–1944 who were sent abroad from Finland during World War II as “war children.”

Results

The review encompasses both epidemiological and clinical studies ranging from mental health disorders to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as potential underlying mechanisms explaining the association between ELS and later health.

Conclusions

ELS is capable of causing changes that alter the normal physiological responses and thereby increase later disease risk, including cardiometabolic disorders. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 26:111–116, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.