Prince Harry says ‘pain and suffering’ is in his DNA, the science of it


  • Prince Harry has said he wants to break the cycle of “genetic pain and suffering” in the royal family.
  • Trauma and other environmental factors can change the way genes are expressed.
  • Changes in gene expression can persist across generations, according to human and animal studies.

In a recent episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast, Prince Harry spoke about “genetic pain and suffering” which he said was passed down through his family.

The Duke of Sussex has told co-hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman he wants to make sure this cycle of trauma ends with him.

“I don’t think we should be pointing fingers or blaming anyone, but certainly in relation to parenthood, if I have experienced some form of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that my father or my parents may have endured, I will make sure to break this cycle so as not to pass it on, ”he said.

Trauma can be transmitted in different ways, from the way parents raise their children to the expression of the genetic code.

While traumatic experiences cannot alter your DNA itself, they can turn genes on and off – and the effects of these changes can spill over to future generations.

Trauma can alter gene expression across generations

What you eat, where you live and the stress you feel can all trigger changes in future generations, according to the science of epigenetic inheritance.

Epigenetics refers to the effect that environmental factors can have on gene expression. Scientists are now studying humans and animals to determine how epigenetic influences can be passed down through generations.

In a study in mice separated from their mothers, the effects of this trauma could be seen in the behavior of five generations of offspring acting depressed, antisocial and taking more risks.

The study of trauma in humans is more delicate, but researchers have followed the descendants of soldiers held in prison camps during the Civil War. Sons of prisoners of war had an 11% higher death rate than sons of non-POW veterans, according to one study.

While the trauma of the Royal Family does not result in such extreme environmental factors as overcrowding and malnutrition, Prince Harry has said he is determined to deal with the pain and suffering that has been transmitted.

“As parents we should do everything we can to try and say, ‘You know what, this happened to me, I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen to you,'” he said on the podcast.


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