Research projects such as the Framingham Heart Study and Nurses’ Health Study, by tracking subjects over decades, have provided a wealth of surprising insight into human health. Now, by following more than 1,000 babies born in a New Zealand town in 1972-73 through their lives, Terrie Moffitt and her collaborators have begun to elucidate the links between childhood experience, crime, stress, premature aging, chronic illness, psychiatric illness, substance abuse and many other maladies of human life.
One analysis showed a connection between childhood self-control and success in early adulthood. As the study population approaches 40, many are in poor health and aging prematurely. The research team is asking whether the explanation might lie in chronic psychiatric illness, often originating in childhood but undiagnosed.