Telomere length and mental well-being in elderly men from the Netherlands and Greece

Behav Genet. 2012 Mar;42(2):278-86. doi: 10.1007/s10519-011-9498-6. Epub 2011 Aug 26.


Telomeres, repetitive DNA sequences that promote chromosomal stability, have been related to different measures of mental well-being and self-rated health, but mainly in women during adulthood. We aimed to investigate whether accelerated telomere shortening is associated with poor mental well-being and poor self-rated health in community-dwelling elderly men. Leukocyte telomere length was measured using quantitative PCR in two different samples of 203 elderly men (mean age 78 years) from the Netherlands in 1993, and 123 elderly men (mean age 84 years) from Greece in 2000. We also obtained follow-up data in 2000 from 144 Dutch subjects, of whom 75 had paired telomere length data in 1993 and 2000. Mental well-being was conceptualized as dispositional optimism, depressive symptoms, cognitive functioning, and loneliness. Linear regression analyses were used to study the association between telomere length, measures of mental well being, and self-rated health, while adjusting for potential confounders. In cross-sectional analyses, leukocyte telomere length was not associated with measures of mental well-being and self-rated health, neither in the Netherlands nor in Greece. Also, the rate of leukocyte telomere shortening (mean decrease: 0.28 kbp over 7 years) in the 75 Dutch participants with longitudinal data was not associated with changes in different measures of mental well-being and self-rated health. Thus, our results provide no support for a relationship between leukocyte telomere length and mental well-being in elderly community-dwelling men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / genetics*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Greece
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Netherlands
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Telomere / genetics*
  • Telomere / metabolism