The field of social and behavioral epigenetics examines the role of epigenetic modifications to mediate the effect of psychosocial stressors on an individual's health and well-being. Epigenetic modifications influence gene expression, which can lead to changes in an individual's phenotype. DNA methylation is an important epigenetic modification that varies throughout the lifespan and appears to respond to a wide range of psychosocial and biological stressors. The effects of early-life adversity impact future health and may be passed on to future generations. The underlying model proposes that stress influences health via an epigenetic mechanism involving altered DNA methylation and gene expression. This review summarizes a range of studies that have identified DNA methylation at specific genes and throughout the genome in association with multiple psychosocial stressors, including psychiatric disorders, sexual and physical abuse, and war trauma. Future studies should test a comprehensive list of epigenetic modifications in association with psychosocial stressors and multiple health outcomes.


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