The new study tells that people living with stress, anxiety, depression or related disorders old faster than biological aging. This rate is much higher than people who aren’t suffering from any of these problems. The childhood trauma is also a part of it and it increases its effects. The results of all these things speed up the epigenetic mechanisms responsible for it.
Very unlikely to the popular belief, mental health is a real concern that negatively affects your health. In the USA it is among the few most common health problems. The most prevalent of all mental health problems is depression. More than 16 million adults have gone through depression only in last year. Click here to read the detailed statistics.
Depression has also been linked to a number of other adverse effects such as making the lifespan shorter. It may also affect the cognitive abilities and increase the risk of cardiovascular problems. This new research highlights that major depression may also speed up aging. In this case, it is not a natural aging but premature aging.
The research has been conducted by Amsterdam University Medical Center in the Netherlands. The research team has studied the DNA structure of people suffering from depression and concluded with this result. They found that these people old by 8 months on average in comparison with people who don’t have depression.
These research findings were presented at the European College of Neuro-psychopharmacology conference that was held in Barcelona, Spain. (Here is an official website of that conference).
The research was later on published in American Journal of Psychiatry and is available to read online. Click here to access it.
This premature aging was more obvious in people who have suffered from any traumatic experiences in life such as violence, trauma, neglect, or abuse. To your surprise, only in the USA, more than 35 million people have suffered from trauma of any type. This value is estimated as per survey results, click here to read complete statistics.
How does depression affect DNA?
In this research, DNA of 811 people having depression and 319 healthy individuals were examined. The participants of this study were enrolled in the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety.
Blood samples were collected from all the participants to examine how DNA changes over time. This study showed that certain epigenetic changes take place in a rapid manner in depressed people.
Epigenetics means the study of changes in gene expression. It usually does not affect DNA but such changes may occur due to many reasons. Two major reasons for this change are the environment and lifestyle.
The epigenetic change takes place through a process called DNA methylation. As the name suggests, in this process a methyl group is added to DNA.
Almost all of the scientists agree that people with major depression have a high degree of methylated DNA and this epigenetic change is an indication for aging. In other words, it shows that depressed people age 8 months earlier than normal people.
In extreme cases of depression, this aging may increase even more. This study also tells that people with a traumatic past also suffer from rapid aging. More or less they age 1.06 years faster than average. All these results were examined on brain tissue samples.
Epigenetic and aging
The epigenetic clock speeds up when the person is suffering from depression. The fact that it was obvious in both blood samples and postmortem brain tissue tells that it is a real thing. The pattern of modification of the body’s DNA shows the biological age. This biological clock runs faster when the body is under stress, trauma or both.
The methylation level at specific loci on a gene may increase and decrease with age. This methylated DNA is an indicator for biological age. It shows up even more when the person is crossing his middle age.
The results also highlight the early life trauma of biological aging. To understand these associations in detail a long-term study is required. It will help to draw a conclusion on how trauma and stress cause epigenetic aging.