Posttraumatic stress disorder and not depression is associated with shorter leukocyte telomere length: findings from 3,000 participants in the population-based KORA F4 study

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 3;8(7):e64762. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064762. Print 2013.

Abstract

Background: A link between severe mental stress and shorter telomere length (TL) has been suggested. We analysed the impact of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on TL in the general population and postulated a dose-dependent TL association in subjects suffering from partial PTSD compared to full PTSD.

Methods: Data are derived from the population-based KORA F4 study (2006-2008), located in southern Germany including 3,000 individuals (1,449 men and 1,551 women) with valid and complete TL data. Leukocyte TL was measured using a quantitative PCR-based technique. PTSD was assessed in a structured interview and by applying the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (PDS) and the Impact of Event Scale (IES). A total of 262 (8.7%) subjects qualified for having partial PTSD and 51 (1.7%) for full PTSD. To assess the association of PTSD with the average TL, linear regression analyses with adjustments for potential confounding factors were performed.

Results: The multiple model revealed a significant association between partial PTSD and TL (beta = -0.051, p = 0.009) as well as between full PTSD and shorter TL (beta = -0.103, p = 0.014) indicating shorter TL on average for partial and full PTSD. An additional adjustment for depression and depressed mood/exhaustion gave comparable beta estimations.

Conclusions: Participants with partial and full PTSD had significantly shorter leukocyte TL than participants without PTSD. The dose-dependent variation in TL of subjects with partial and full PTSD exceeded the chronological age effect, and was equivalent to an estimated 5 years in partial and 10 years in full PTSD of premature aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / genetics*
  • Telomere Shortening*

Grant support

The MONICA/KORA Augsburg studies were financed by the Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Neuherberg, Germany (formerly GSF - National Research Center for Environment and Health) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Berlin, Germany. VC and NJS are funded by the British Heart Foundation and this work falls under the research portfolio of the Leicester NIHR Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit. Telomere assays were funded by the ENGAGE consortium. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.