Girls with high risk of depression may age faster
The shortening of certain genetic components have been linked to both an increased risk of depression and of premature aging, a new study suggests.
A team from Stanford University aimed to answer a genetic chicken or egg question about which comes first: depression, stress or telomere length. Telomeres, found at the very ends of our chromosomes, cap the ends and protect the strands of our DNA. As we age, and the DNA splitting and replication process occurs again and again, these telomeres wear down, exposing genetic material.
In the study, 97 girls ages 10 to 14 were analyzed. Based on family history, all were at high risk for depression, but were currently free of depression symptoms. DNA samples from the girls were gathered and researchers compared telomere lengths with DNA from a similar group of girls with no family history of depression.
They found that girls 12 years old from the depression-risk group had telomere lengths that were shorter by six adult-aging years.
The researchers concluded that being at high risk for depression based on family history makes a person more likely to have shorter telomere lengths, and susceptible to the effects of stress. They also note that a link been made between exercise and telomere shortening in adults, so girls at risk for depression may benefit from increased exercise early on.