Background: Although telomere shortening occurs as a natural part of aging, there is now a robust body of research that suggests that there is a relationship between psychosocial, environmental, and behavioral factors and changes in telomere length. These factors need to be considered when integrating telomere measurement in biobehavioral research studies.
Objectives: This article provides a brief summary of the known facts about telomere biology and an integrative review of current human research studies that assessed relationships between psychosocial, environmental, or behavioral factors and telomere length.
Methods: An integrative review was conducted to examine human research studies that focused on psychosocial, environmental, and behavioral factors affecting telomere length and telomerase activity using the electronic databases PubMed/Medline and CINAHL from 2003 to the present. In addition to the known individual factors that are associated with telomere length, the results of the integrative review suggest that perceived stress, childhood adversities, major depressive disorder, educational attainment, physical activity, and sleep duration should also be measured.
Discussion: Multiple factors have been shown to affect telomere length. To advance understanding of the role of telomere length in health and disease risk, it will be important to further elucidate the mechanisms that contribute to telomere shortening.