Friday, July 13, 2012

Phobia, Anxiety May Contribute to Premature Aging

Phobia and anxiety disorders may contribute to premature aging by shortening telomeres, according to a report in the online journal PloSOne. Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes that cap the ends of chromosomes. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten a bit. If the telomeres become too short, a cell is unable to divide further and dies.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University measured telomere lengths in blood samples from 5,243 women aged 42–69 who were part of a study on phobia and anxiety. They found that higher phobic anxiety was generally associated with lower telomere lengths. This association was similar after adjustment were made for confounders. Women with the most severe phobic anxiety had telomere lengths 0.09 standardized units below average. "The magnitude of this difference was comparable to that for women 6 years apart in age," the researchers said.

The report, titled “High Phobic Anxiety Is Related to Lower Leukocyte Telomere Length in Women,” can be read here. For more information about the relationship between telomeres and mental health, see Psychiatric News here.

(Image: Oleg Golovnev/


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