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
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
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.