Childhood adversity sets people up for "a lifetime of trouble" because of the effects it has on their brains and bodies, a University of Arizona research psychiatrist says.

Charles Raison said in an AZ Illustrated Science interview that research has shown that children who undergo abuse, neglect and other forms of adversity often end up with substance abuse problems and other addictions.

"I think one of the most consistent findings in the world of neuroscience and health research in the last decade has been that on average, when humans as children are exposed to not just trauma but also neglect - we call it early adversity, so childhoods that are full of adversity - that does something to people's brains and bodies that sets them up for a lifetime of trouble," Raison said.

"We know in addiction it's very clear: We know there's a big, big link between having a lot of trouble in childhood and having a bigger risk for addiction as an adult. It does something to the brain that makes people vulnerable to addiction."

He said childhood trauma is similar to smoking in that it can take 10 years off the lifespan of someone exposed to it in the Western world.

Raison called it "a major health problem," saying it causes premature aging of people's cells, causes them to overuse their stress systems, raises the risk of diabetes and may raise the risk of cancer.

Many adults overcome the aftereffects of childhood trauma and lead productive lives, Raison said. He cited Eleanor Roosevelt, who was first lady as wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as someone who overcome a childhood of abuse to be a world leader and woman of accomplishment.