Posted on Aug 07, 2012, 6 a.m.
Phobic anxiety associates with shorter telomeres – a marker of a cellular aging, in middle-aged and older women.
Telomeres are the end caps of chromosomes, protecting the DNA complexes from deterioration during cell division. Telomere shortening is considered a marker of cellular aging, and prematurely shortened telomeres have been linked to increased risk of cancers, heart disease, dementia and death. Olivia Okereke, from Brigham and Women's Hospital (Massachusetts, USA), and colleagues completed a cross-section of study involving 5,243 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. The researchers obtained blood samples and analyzed telomere lengths, and surveyed the subjects regarding phobic symptoms. Having a high phobic anxiety level was associated with significantly shorter telomere lengths. The difference in telomere lengths for women who were highly phobic versus not, was similar to what was seen for an additional six years of age. Writing that: "Chronic psychological distress has been linked to shorter telomeres, an indication of accelerated aging,” the study authors conclude that: "In this large, cross-sectional study high phobic anxiety was associated with shorter telomeres.”
Olivia I. Okereke, Jennifer Prescott, Jason Y. Y. Wong, Jiali Han, Kathryn M. Rexrode, Immaculata De Vivo. “High Phobic Anxiety Is Related to Lower Leukocyte Telomere Length in Women.” PLoS ONE, 11 July 2012.