A prospective study of leukocyte telomere length and risk of phobic anxiety among women

Psychiatry Res. 2015 Dec 15;230(2):545-52. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.10.002.


We prospectively examined the relation of relative telomere lengths (RTLs), a marker of biological aging, to phobic anxiety in later-life. RTLs in peripheral blood leukocytes were measured among 3194 women in the Nurses' Health Study who provided blood samples in 1989/90. The Crown-Crisp Phobic Index (CCI, range=0–16) was assessed in 1988 and 2004. Only participants with CCI≤3 (consistent with no meaningful anxiety symptoms) in 1988 were included. We related baseline RTLs to odds ratios (ORs) of incident high phobic anxiety symptoms (CCI≥6). To enhance clinical relevance, we used finite mixture modeling (FMM) to relate baseline RTLs to latent classes of CCI in 2004. RTLs were not significantly associated with high phobic anxiety symptoms after 16 years of follow-up. However, FMM identified 3 groups of phobic symptoms in later-life: severe, minimal/intermediate, and non-anxious. The severe group had non-significantly shorter multivariable-adjusted mean RTLs than the minimal/intermediate and non-anxious groups. Women with shorter telomeres vs. longest telomeres had non-significantly higher likelihood of being in the severe vs. non-anxious group. Overall, there was no significant association between RTLs and incident phobic anxiety symptoms. Further work is required to explore potential connections of telomere length and emergence of severe phobic anxiety symptoms during later-life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Phobic Disorders / metabolism*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Telomere / metabolism*
  • United States


  • Biomarkers