Research reveals that people that experience recurring episodes of depression or those that are exposed to chronic stress have shorter telomeres in their white blood cells.
“A telomere is a region of repetitive DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes.” Consequently, as we age, telomeres, the outermost part of the chromosome, shorten.
Moreover, research suggests that oxidative stress and inflammation can accelerate this process. The lengths of telomeres are suggestive of our biological age and have been associated with age-related diseases, unhealthy lifestyle, and longevity. Additionally, new studies now show that the shortening of telomeres is also linked to recurrent depression and exposure to chronic stress.
To demonstrate, researchers studied 91 patients with recurrent depression and 451 healthy patients by measuring the telomere length in their white blood cells.
Results showed that telomeres were shorter among the patients with recurrent depression. Also, by examining the participants' stress regulation using a dexamethasone suppression test, researchers again revealed that cortisol levels, indicative of chronic stress, were also associated with shorter telomeres in both depressed participants and healthy ones.
“The fact that depressed patients as a group have shorter telomere lengths compared to healthy individuals can be largely explained by the fact that more depressed people than healthy people have disturbed cortisol regulation, which underscores that cortisol regulation and stress play a major role in depressive disorders” says Mikael Wikgren, a doctoral candidate in the research group.
Accordingly, people could experience age-related complications much earlier in life; therefore properly treating and managing stress and/or depression may significantly impact the quality of life throughout the lifetime.
Depression and Chronic Stress Accelerates Aging