Any one of the events—which include being fired from your job or your partner having an affair—could potentially have a damaging effect years later, say researchers from the University of Wisconsin, although it's more likely to be cumulative as people experience several of the events in their lives.
Children and teenagers can have their own stressful events, such as being expelled from school or having drug-abusing parents, that can raise their risk of dementia when they're older.
To assess the mental damage that stressful experiences can have on us, the researchers tested 1,320 people aged in their 50s and 60s on their mental abilities, and then asked them about stresses that had happened in their lives.
They discovered a strong connection between poor cognition and lifetime stress, with each stressful event causing the brain to age around four years. The 27 stressful events they identified are:
1. Repeating a year at school
2. Being sent away from home for doing something wrong
3. Father or mother were unemployed
4. One or both parents suffered an alcohol problem
5. One or both parents abused drugs
6. Dropping out of school
7. Expelled from school
8. Failed school or university
9. Fired from a job
10. Unemployed for a long period
11. Death of a parent when young
12. Parents divorced
13. Spouse or partner had an affair
14. Major difficulties with in-laws
15. Death of a sibling
16. Death of a child
17. Your child suffers life-threatening illness or accident
18. Lost the family home from flood or fire
19. Physically assaulted
20. Sexually assaulted
21. Suffering serious legal difficulties
23. Declared bankrupt
24. Suffered financial loss or loss of property
25. Went on welfare
26. Joined the armed forces
27. Experienced active combat.