Anxiety Can Speed Up The Aging Process

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Having an anxiety disorder may speed up the aging process. However, treatment to lessen anxiety can reverse the trend.

The connection between anxiety and aging was found by examining telomeres, which is the DNA at the end of chromosomes. With age, telomeres get smaller in size, and are considered a sign of cellular aging.

Dutch researchers, led by Josine Verhoeven, a PhD candidate at VU Medical Center in Amsterdam, examined the telomeres of more than 2,300 people. People suffering from an anxiety disorder or those with a history of such a disorder were found to have shorter telomeres, the researchers reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

The difference in telomere length “may indicate 3 to 5 years of accelerated aging for the current-anxiety group,” according to the researchers. Prior research has also indicated a link between shorter telomere length and depression.

Telomere length wasn’t significantly different between those with a history of anxiety and those without. However, those who had a history of anxiety whose symptoms had improved for less than 10 years had shorter telomeres than those who hadn’t been impacted by anxiety for 10 years or more.

The researchers noted this finding could indicate that the aging process of cells might be reversible.

Verhoven told Medscape Medical News that engaging in positive behaviors, such as exercise, seems to promote telomere length.

Approaching Treatment-Resistant Anxiety
Anxiety Can Speed Up The Aging Process

Anxiety disorders might affect a sign of aging, but treatment can reverse the process, new research suggests.

A Dutch study of more than 2,300 people looked at telomeres, which are the DNA at the end of chromosomes. Telomeres shorten with age, so they're considered a sign of cellular aging.

People with a current anxiety disorder had shorter telomeres than those without a mental health disorder and those with a history of an anxiety disorder, "although cause and effect remain to be explored," says researcher Josine Verhoeven. She's a PhD candidate at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.

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