The Relationship Between Perceived Stress and Telomere Length: A Meta-analysis

Stress Health. 2016 Oct;32(4):313-319. doi: 10.1002/smi.2607. Epub 2014 Nov 13.


Telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes, and short telomere length is associated with poor health and mortality. This study reports a meta-analytic investigation of the relationship between perceived stress and telomere length, including results from eight studies with a total of 1143 participants. A meta-analytic effect size of r = -0.25, p < 0.001, indicated that higher levels of perceived stress were associated with shorter telomere length. Examination of the studies for moderators of effect size identified some significant moderators, such as a difference in effect sizes between samples comprised of only women and mixed-sex samples. These results are only suggestive as they are based on a small set of studies, and funnel plot analyses indicated a publication bias. A significant relationship between more perceived stress and shorter telomere length is consistent with theoretical frameworks positing that stress induces physiological changes that result in shortened telomeres. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: meta-analysis; perceived stress; telomere length.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics*
  • Telomere / genetics*