Background: Little is known about the biological mechanisms underlying the excess medical morbidity and mortality associated with mood disorders. Substantial evidence supports abnormalities in stress-related biological systems in depression. Accelerated telomere shortening may reflect stress-related oxidative damage to cells and accelerated aging, and severe psychosocial stress has been linked to telomere shortening. We propose that chronic stress associated with mood disorders may contribute to excess vulnerability for diseases of aging such as cardiovascular disease and possibly some cancers through accelerated organismal aging.
Methods: Telomere length was measured by Southern Analysis in 44 individuals with chronic mood disorders and 44 nonpsychiatrically ill age-matched control subjects.
Results: Telomere length was significantly shorter in those with mood disorders, representing as much as 10 years of accelerated aging.
Conclusions: These results provide preliminary evidence that mood disorders are associated with accelerated aging and may suggest a novel mechanism for mood disorder-associated morbidity and mortality.