Original Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences study on telomeres and stress

Kristen Sparrow • July 15, 2011

A bit of background from this earlier post, I had this in the deep freeze of my computer. This was the landmark study showing increased aging in mothers of handicapped children versus mothers of non-handicapped children.
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, 3333 California
Street, Suite 465, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA. elissa@itsa.ucsf.edu

Numerous studies demonstrate links between chronic stress and
indices of poor health, including risk factors for cardiovascular
disease and poorer immune function. Nevertheless, the exact
mechanisms of how stress gets “under the skin” remain elusive. We
investigated the hypothesis that stress impacts health by modulating
the rate of cellular aging. Here we provide evidence that
psychological stress–both perceived stress and chronicity of
stress–is significantly associated with higher oxidative stress,
lower telomerase activity, and shorter telomere length, which are
known determinants of cell senescence and longevity, in peripheral
blood mononuclear cells from healthy premenopausal women. Women with
the highest levels of perceived stress have telomeres shorter on
average by the equivalent of at least one decade of additional aging
compared to low stress women. These findings have implications for
understanding how, at the cellular level, stress may promote earlier
onset of age-related diseases.