Depression speeds the aging process

A new study published in Molecular Psychiatry shows that depression can make cells age more quickly.

U.S. researchers worked with Josine Verhoeven from the VU University Medical Centre in the Netherlands to analyze the bloodwork of 2,407 people. One third of these study participants were depressed, another third had previously experienced major depression, and the rest had never been depressed.

The blood showed some interesting results: those currently or previously with depression showed clear signs of cellular aging in their telomeres. Telomeres are structures deep within cells that cap the end of chromosomes and prevent the loss or breakdown of DNA. The length of a telomere indicates how the cell is aging. The participants who were or once were depressed had shorter telomere lengths than participants who never experienced depression.

Length differences existed even after taking certain lifestyle habits into account, such as excessive drinking or smoking. The more serious a person’s case of depression, the shorter their telomere length was. The researchers suspect that shortened telomeres is part of the body’s reaction to the anguish of depression.

The study noted that it is unclear if shortened telomeres are harmful or if this process can be reversed.

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