Telomere length and depression: prospective cohort study and Mendelian randomisation study in 67 306 individuals

Br J Psychiatry. 2017 Jan;210(1):31-38. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.115.178798. Epub 2016 Nov 3.


Background: Depression has been cross-sectionally associated with short telomeres as a measure of biological age. However, the direction and nature of the association is currently unclear.

Aims: We examined whether short telomere length is associated with depression cross-sectionally as well as prospectively and genetically.

Method: Telomere length and three polymorphisms, TERT, TERC and OBFC1, were measured in 67 306 individuals aged 20-100 years from the Danish general population and associated with register-based attendance at hospital for depression and purchase of antidepressant medication.

Results: Attendance at hospital for depression was associated with short telomere length cross-sectionally, but not prospectively. Further, purchase of antidepressant medication was not associated with short telomere length cross-sectionally or prospectively. Mean follow-up was 7.6 years (range 0.0-21.5). The genetic analyses suggested that telomere length was not causally associated with attendance at hospital for depression or with purchase of antidepressant medication.

Conclusions: Short telomeres were not associated with depression in prospective or in causal, genetic analyses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark
  • Depression / genetics*
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries*
  • Telomere Shortening / genetics*
  • Young Adult