Can one age faster due to fear?

January 21, 2015

Can one age faster due to fear?

A study of over 5,000 female subjects between the age of 42 and 69 links phobic anxieties and premature aging in women. The mechanism would be caused by oxidative stress and inflammation.

All forms of psychological distress have important repercussions on physical health: a new study has concluded that phobias can lead to a more rapid biological aging in middle-aged women and older women, with an increased risk of health problems .

“We are often asked whether, and how, stress can lead to premature aging,” explained Olivia Okereke psychiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and co-author of the study, who with her colleagues designed a study to test this hypothesis.

The researchers examined blood samples of 5,243 women aged between 42 and 69, women with the higher levels of phobia generally had biological markers typical of women six years old. Okereke and her colleagues who conducted the research analyzed telomeres, in particular, that in the course of aging undergo a natural shortening, which according to some theories would be the result of exposure to oxidative stress and inflammation. In turn, shorter telomeres were associated, especially in older individuals, with a greater risk of heart disease, cancer and dementia. In light of these recent results on telomere shortening, treating phobias could indirectly prevent or stop premature aging and thus decrease the risk factors for health in individuals who are affected.