Depression may age you faster
Researchers in the Netherlands have found that depression can take a physical toll on the body and speed up the aging process.
According to a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychology, scientists found that people with major depressive disorder (MDD) may show signs of accelerated biological aging. Patients with MDD have an increased onset risk of aging related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease, and it has been suggested that accelerated biological aging may be one of the causes.
“Psychological distress, as experienced by depressed persons, has a large, detrimental impact on the ‘wear and tear’ of a person’s body, resulting in accelerated biological aging,” said study author Josine Verhoeven, a researcher at the Free University in Amsterdam, according to LiveScience.
Much of the aging that the scientists have discovered happens on the cellular level. Researchers detected cellular aging by analyzing the length of telomeres—specialized DNA complexes that cap the ends of DNA and shorten slightly during each cell division. The team assessed telomere length in 1,095 patients with MDD, 802 people who have recovered from MDD, and 510 healthy individuals. The results, adjusted for health and lifestyle variables, suggested that telomere length is shorter in people who have experienced MDD at some point in their lives. Both a higher severity of depression and longer duration of symptoms were associated with shorter telomere length. The research indicates that the cellular aging in those who currently have MDD is accelerated by several years.
“We’ve long known that depression can manifest itself in very physical ways,” says Dr. Bruce Hyman, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “In addition to the mental component of depression, patients may experience physical symptoms like fatigue, loss of appetite, achy joints, headaches or even digestive problems.”
For this study, the researchers showed an association, but not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship between depression and shorter telomeres. Researchers did acknowledge that some other factor, such as a genetic vulnerability, possibly underlies both.
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