Image of telomeres
Stress and depression affect our wellbeing and how fast we age at a cellular level

Stress and depression can make us age faster

23 February, 2012

Natural Health News — Stress and depression don’t just make us feel older – they actually accelerate the ageing process at a cellular level, say scientists.

According to a small study conducted in Umeå University in Sweden,  prolonged bouts of negative emotions tend to shorten a our telomeres – the protective “caps” on the ends of chromosomes.

Telomeres shrink naturally as we age and so are considered to be an accurate biological marker of ageing.

The scientists looked at 91 patients with recurrent depression and 451 healthy persons as controls. The lengths of their telomeres from white blood cells and cortisol levels are measured. In addition, the participants were given the drug dexamethasone which simulates the production of the stress hormone cortisol, in order to determine how their bodies react to stress.

The results showed that participants with high cortisol levels and depression have shorter telomeres compared to healthy individuals. People with depression often have disturbed cortisol regulation, and therefore are often stressed.

The relationship between depression and stress to accelerated shortening of telomeres are not yet known, but this is the first study that shows relationship between them.

In previous studies, shortened telomeres have been to DNA damage and tumour formation. Because ageing is associated with onset of several types of disease the researchers say it is important for people to have some sort of stress management and to seek professional help for depression.

The study appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

See our related articles (left) for natural ways to de-stress.