Neurology Central

The epigenetic impacts of social stress: how does social adversity become biologically embedded?

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Epigenetic mechanisms are implicated in the processes through which social stressors erode health in humans and other animals. Here I review progress in elucidating the biological pathways underlying the social gradient in health, with particular emphasis on how behavioral stresses influence epigenomic variation linked to health. The evidence that epigenetic changes are involved in embedding of social status-linked chronic stress is reviewed in the context of current knowledge about behavior within animal dominance hierarchies and the impacts of social position on behaviors that affect health. The roles of epigenetic mechanisms in responses to trauma and the evidence for their involvement in intergenerational transmission of the biological impacts of traumatic stress are also considered. Taken together, the emerging insights have important implications for development of strategies to improve societal health and well-being.
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