Stress and Aging

December 1, 2004

It seems pretty apparent that stress ages a person—ever notice that presidents seem to look about ten years older every year?  Even the ones that don’t appear to be doing anything.

There’s apparently scientific data now on what’s going on.  New Scientist reports on a study where Chromosomes are aged 10 years by stress.

“A piece of DNA called a telomere caps the ends of each chromosome, protecting those ends and promoting genetic stability. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten so that daughter cells have slightly shorter telomeres than their parents.”

“But in young people, an enzyme called telomerase corrects the process, regenerating the ends. However, in older people the telomeres shorten significantly and eventually their replication stops altogether.”

“To study the effect of stress on the cell, Epel and her colleagues looked at the chromosomes in the white blood cells of 58 mothers, two-thirds of whom had chronically ill children. The other women had healthy children so may be expected to suffer less stress.”

“There was no difference in the telomere length of the two groups, but women in both groups who reported the most stress also had the shortest telomeres. And the effect was so large that it represented nine to 17 years’ worth of cell ageing.”

Wow.  I wasn’t chronically ill, but I was a holy terror through my teen years.  I must have added at least a couple of years…

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One Response to “Stress and Aging”

  1. rimone on December 2nd, 2004 6:32 am

    hmmpf…i’m living proof of stress causing aging. then again, i too was a holy terror and looked pretty young until fairly recently. go figure (i believe it’s all in one’s genes).

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