Study: stress, the disease of the century, affects our longevity!
Scientists at Yale University have developed ways to measure biological age by tracing chemical changes in DNA that occur naturally as people age, but occur at different times in different people.
The research is published in the 'Translational Psychiatry Journal'. In a new study, Yale researchers used one such watch, aptly named "GrimAge," to ask two questions: How much does chronic stress accelerate the biological clock? And are there ways to slow it down and extend a healthy lifespan?
According to their findings, stress really makes the clock of life knock faster - but that individuals can help manage effects by strengthening their regulation of emotions and self-control.
Rajita Sinha, Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale Foundation Foundation, professor of neuroscience and professor at the Yale Children's Study Center, and one of the study's authors, has spent decades studying stress and the countless harmful ways it erodes our mental and physical health.
Prolonged stress, for example, increases the risk of heart disease, addiction, mood disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder, said Sinha, who is also director of the Yale Interdisciplinary Stress Center. It can affect metabolism, accelerating obesity-related disorders like diabetes. Stress also weakens our ability to regulate emotions and think clearly.
A Yale team led by Sinha and Zachary Harvanek, a resident in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, decided to explore whether stress also accelerates aging in a relatively young and healthy population. Other co-authors included Ke Xu, an associate professor of psychiatry, and Nia Fogelman, an associate research scientist in psychiatry at Yale.
For their study, they enrolled 444 people, aged 19 to 50, who gave blood samples used to assess age-related chemical changes captured by GrimAge, as well as other health markers. Participants also answered questions created to reveal stress levels and psychological resilience.
Even after calculating demographic and behavioral factors such as smoking, body mass index, race, and income, the researchers found that those who scored high on measures related to chronic stress exhibited accelerated aging markers and physiological changes such as increased insulin resistance.
However, stress did not affect everyone's health to the same extent. Subjects who scored high on two measures of psychological resilience - emotion regulation and self-control - were more resilient to the effects of aging stress and insulin resistance, respectively.
"These results support the popular notion that stress makes us age faster, but they also suggest a promising way to minimize these negative effects of stress by strengthening emotion regulation and self-control," Harvanek said.
In other words, the more psychologically resilient the subject is, the higher the likelihood they will live longer and healthier, he said.
"We all like to feel like we have a hand in our destiny," Sinha said. "So it's a nice thing to reinforce in people's minds that we need to make an investment in our psychological health," she concluded.