High Anxiety Might Make You Age Faster
Phobic anxiety is a term used to describe an unreasonable fear of certain situations, including crowds, heights, water or simply, the outside world. Approximately 8% of Americans suffer from some sort of fear.
Researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston discovered a link between phobic anxiety and biological ageing in older and middle-aged women.
Telomeres are cellular makers for aging. They are cap-like, DNA-protein complexes situated at the ends of chromosomes to protect them from damage. They are almost akin to the plastic ends of shoelaces that keep the lace from fraying. With every cell division, the telomere shortens and once they become extremely short, the cells reach senescence. Shortening of telomeres increases the risk for of cancers, heart disease, dementia and mortality.
A little more than 5,000 women, aged between 42 - 69 years, were selected for the study and were asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding any phobic symptoms that they might be suffering from. Blood samples were collected from them to carry out DNA studies.
Despite accounting for factors (such as smoking, BMI, physical activity and age of their fathers when they were born) that might influence telomere lengths, it was found that women who were anxiety prone had significantly shorter telomeres compared to calm women and this difference was similar to that observed in women who had six years difference in their ages.
Dr Olivia Okereke, the key author, believes that the study results reveal a connection between psychological stress and biological ageing mechanism. The study, however, is unable to prove which came first, the ageing or the anxiety. Further research is required to establish the relation between anxiety and telomere length.
The results of the current study have been published online in PLoS ONE.