Researchers have discovered that people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may also be at higher risk for accelerated ageing or premature senescence.
"This is the first study of its type to link PTSD, a psychological disorder with no established genetic basis, which is caused by external, traumatic stress, with long-term, systemic effects on a basic biological process such as ageing," said Dilip V. Jeste, professor of psychiatry at University of California - San Diego.
Jeste and colleagues conducted a comprehensive review of published empirical studies relevant to early ageing in PTSD, covering multiple databases going back to the year 2000. The team identified 64 relevant studies; 22 were suitable for calculating overall effect sizes for biomarkers and 10 for mortality.
Seven of 10 studies indicated a mild-to-moderate association of PTSD with earlier mortality, consistent with an early onset or acceleration of ageing in PTSD.
"These findings do not speak to whether accelerated ageing is specific to PTSD, but they do argue the need to re-conceptualize PTSD as something more than a mental illness," said first author James B. Lohr, professor of psychiatry.
Early senescence, increased medical morbidity and premature mortality in PTSD have implications in health care beyond simply treating PTSD symptoms.
"Our findings warrant a deeper look at this phenomenon and a more integrated medical-psychiatric approach to their care," Lohr concluded.
The study appeared online in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry