Life stress, emotional health, and mean telomere length in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk population study

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011 Nov;66(11):1152-62. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glr112. Epub 2011 Jul 25.


We investigated the association between psychological stress, emotional health, and relative mean telomere length in an ethnically homogeneous population of 4,441 women, aged 41-80 years. Mean telomere length was measured using high-throughput quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Social adversity exposure and emotional health were assessed through questionnaire and covariates through direct measurement and questionnaire. This study found evidence that adverse experiences during childhood may be associated with shorter telomere length. This finding remained after covariate adjustment and showed evidence of a dose-response relationship with increasing number of reported childhood difficulties associated with decreasing relative mean telomere length. No associations were observed for any of the other summary measures of social adversity and emotional health considered. These results extend and provide support for some previous findings concerning the association of adverse experience and emotional health histories with shorter telomere length in adulthood. Replication of these findings in longitudinal studies is now essential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Telomere / chemistry
  • Telomere / ultrastructure*
  • Telomere Homeostasis / genetics
  • Telomere Homeostasis / physiology*