Why a mother’s love really is priceless: It prevents illness even into middle age
You comfort them over a skinned knee in the playground, and coax them to sleep with a soothing lullaby.
Happiness = health: Mothers who nurture their children help them develop self-respect and coping strategies to ensure they are healthy in later life
And being a nurturing mother could well pay dividends in later life by protecting your child from serious illnesses, scientists say.
Tender loving care in childhood was found to reduce a person’s risk of conditions including diabetes and heart disease in adulthood, according to researchers at Brandeis University in Boston.
They examined 1,000 people from
low-income backgrounds, which has been shown by a wealth of previous
research to be related to poorer health in later life and lower life
However, they found some people from
disadvantaged families managed to buck this trend – and they tended to
have had a loving mother.
Participants were recruited at an average age of 46 and had a full health check in hospital.
They were asked about their mothers
with questions such as ‘how much did she understand your problems and
worries’ and ‘How much time and attention did she give you when you
A decade later half of the people had metabolic syndrome – a major risk factors for heart disease, strokes and diabetes.
It is a combination of symptoms
including excess fat around the waist, high blood pressure, high
cholesterol and insulin resistance, which affects around one in four
people in the UK.
They found people in the lowest
socio-economic category, with neither parent having finished school, had
the highest rate of this condition – half of them were affected and
regardless of their social mobility in later life.
‘The stresses of childhood can leave a biological residue that shows up in midlife. Yet,
among those at risk for poor health, adults who had nurturing mothers
in childhood fared better in physical health’
Study author Professor Margie Lachman
But although this high risk seemed to
be ‘embedded’ from childhood, the researchers said, those who said their
mothers were very nurturing were far less likely to have it.
Psychology professor Margie Lachman said events in childhood seem to leave a ‘biological residue’ on health during adult life.
She said: ‘The fact that we can see these long-term effects from childhood into midlife is pretty dramatic.
‘We want to understand what it is
about having a nurturing mother that allows you to escape the
vulnerabilities of being in a low socioeconomic status background and
wind up healthier than your counterparts.’
Anxiety: Children who grow up in stressful environments are more likely to suffer illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure as adults, scientists say
The authors suggest it could be a
combination of empathy, teaching children ‘coping strategies’ to deal
with stress so it does not affect their health and encouraging them to
eat well and live a healthy lifestyle.
They did not look at how nurturing
their fathers were but the authors believe they probably have a big
influence too particularly for the next generation as parental roles are
less rigid than they were when the people they studied were young.
Prof Lachman said the information
could help devise training for parents about coping with their child’s
stress, living a healthy lifestyle and having ‘control over their
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.