Patients with depression have an increased risk for many aging-related disorders, but the biological mechanisms underlying this link remain to be determined. Here we examined the association between depressive symptoms and leukocyte telomere length (LTL), a marker of biological aging, among 2,175 American Indians participating in the Strong Heart Family Study. Depressive symptoms were assessed by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies of Depression Scale (CES-D), which was categorized into four levels: none (< 10), mild (10-15), moderate (16 -24), and severe (> 24). LTL (T/S ratio) was quantified by qPCR. The association between depressive symptoms and LTL was examined by multivariate generalized estimating equation models, adjusting for sociodemographic factors, lifestyle factors, and chronic conditions. Results showed that individuals with a higher level of depressive symptoms had shorter LTL. Specifically, LTL in participants reporting none, mild, moderate, and severe depressive symptoms were 1.000, 0.999, 0.988, and 0.966, respectively (P for trend = 0.0278). Moreover, gender appears to modulate the effect of reported depressive symptoms that fall in the severe range (CES-D > 24) on LTL (P for interaction = 0.0346). Our results suggest that depressive symptoms may accelerate biological aging through pathways beyond traditional risk factors in American Indians.
Keywords: American Indian; Strong Heart Study; depression; leukocyte telomere length.