Do Symptoms of Depression Predict Telomere Length? Evidence From the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study

School of Sport and Exercise Sciences (A.C.P, D.C.), University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, UK
Psychosomatic Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.47). 03/2013; 75(3). DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e318289e6b5
Source: PubMed


Psychological factors such as the stress of caregiving are emerging as predictors of telomere length, an index of biological aging. However, although lifetime major depressive disorder is associated with shorter telomeres, less is known about depressive symptoms. Depression and depressive symptoms are associated with a range of morbidities and mortality, but the extent to which they predict biological aging is unclear. The present study examined participants in the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study across three age cohorts and four waves of data collection from 1992/1993 to 2007/2008.Methods
Participants were 37, 57, and 76 years old at final data collection. Depressive symptoms were measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale at each time point. Telomere length was assessed from 1063 blood samples collected at the final wave in 2007/2008 for respondents who also had depression data.ResultsAverage depression symptoms (β= -.12, p = .047) and their change over time (β = -.12, p = .031) were negatively associated with telomere length, but only in the youngest cohort. Depressive symptoms were not cross sectionally associated with telomere length in 2007 to 2008 (β= -.03, p = .45). In the youngest cohort only, depressive symptoms assessed in 1995 to 1997 and 2000 to 2004 were associated with shorter telomere length (β = .14 [p = .046] and β = .18 [p = .012], respectively), but not 1992 to 1993 or 2007 to 2008; associations in the middle- and older-aged cohorts were nonsignificant.Conclusions
Depressive symptoms are longitudinally associated with shorter telomere length, but only in younger adults.

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    • "The authors argue that the physiological hyperarousal and physiological stress associated with anxiety disorders may cause telomere damage, consistent with other studies linking psychological stress with shorter TL (Ahola et al., 2012; Drury et al., 2012; 2014; Entringer et al., 2011; 2013; Epel et al., 2004; Humphreys et al., 2012; Kananen et al., 2010; O'Donovan et al., 2011; Price et al., 2013; Shalev et al., 2013a; Shalev et al., 2013b; Surtees et al., 2011; Tyrka et al., 2010; Uchino et al., 2012). On the other hand, there are also studies that do not support such an association, among them a most recent study assessing life stress in a 30-year birth cohort (Jodczyk et al., 2014; Phillips et al., 2013; Rius-Ottenheim et al., 2012). Our findings thus add further support to the assumption that shorter TL is not per se a risk factor for psychiatric disorders. "
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