Wednesday, February 17, 2021

History of Mental Illness Associated With Earlier Signs of Aging

Individuals with a history mental illness are more likely to show signs of aging by age 45—including cognitive decline and loss of motor coordination—than are people without such a history, according to a report published today in JAMA Psychiatry.

This remained true even after controlling for a host of other factors that might explain early aging, such as poor health in childhood; being overweight; smoking; or a history of cancer, diabetes, or heart attack.

“In this cohort study, a history of psychopathology was associated with accelerated aging at midlife, years before the typical onset of age-related diseases,” wrote lead author Jasmin Wertz, Ph.D., of Duke University and colleagues.

Wertz and colleagues analyzed data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, a study of 1,037 individuals (93% White) born between April 1, 1972, and March 31, 1973, in Dunedin, New Zealand. Participants were followed up to age 45. Of the original cohort, 997 were still alive at age 45 years, and 938 participated in the assessment at age 45 years.

Interviews were conducted by health professionals using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule at ages 18, 21, 26, 32, 38, and 45 years to assess for symptoms of mental disorders, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, substance use disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia. Based on these assessments, the researchers developed an overall score for psychopathology.

They also measured the pace of aging among participants using laboratory biomarkers of cardiovascular, metabolic, pulmonary, kidney, immune, and dental systems. Additionally, the researchers tested hearing and vision, balance, motor functioning, and cognitive functioning. The participants were also asked questions about vision, balance, and hearing difficulties as well as how old they felt at age 45 (for example, “Many people feel younger or older than they really are. What age do you feel most of the time?”).

At age 45, participants with higher scores of psychopathology were aging faster across all signs of aging, including more problems with hearing, vision, balance, and gait speed. They also experienced more cognitive difficulties at age 45.

“[I]ndividuals with mental disorders are a high-priority group to monitor for signs of accelerated aging,” the researchers wrote. “Such monitoring will require greater integration of mental and physical health services to reduce health inequalities and lengthen healthy lives.”

(Image: iStock/vadimguzhva)

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