We know that stress is related to a host of diseases including stroke, heart disease and many other cardiovascular problems. But both stress and depression seem to actually make us older, faster.
"Reduce stress and address depression for younger living."
Researchers in Sweden studied 91 patients with recurring depression, against 451 healthy control subjects. Mikael Wikgren and his team at Umeå University, along with scientists from Stockholm University, Linköping University, and Antwerp University also measured the participants stress levels, in order to study the relationship to biological aging.
Researchers measured the length of each subject's telomere, the outermost part of the chromosome, using white blood cell count. Telomere length has been linked to longevity, age-related diseases and unhealthy lifestyle practices. As we age, our telomeres shorten.
In this study, the depressed patients had shorter telomere lengths than the control group. Those who had chronic stress, shown by their cortisol levels, were also associated with shorter telomeres.
“The test revealed that cortisol levels indicative of chronic stress stress are associated with shorter telomeres in both depressed and healthy individuals,” says Wikgren. He explains that the shorter telomere lengths are largely explained by the fact that depressed people have more disturbed cortisol regulation, which also plays a major role in stress.
The findings were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in November 2011.