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Study: People With Psychological Stress Could Age Faster

Update Date: Jul 15, 2012 09:21 AM EDT

A latest study reveals that psychological stress can lead to premature aging in people.

Researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in women studied the effect of phobic anxiety on aging by looking at the telomere length in more than 5,200 women, aged 42 to 69.

Telomeres are the structures protecting the ends of chromosomes from deterioration. Shortened telomeres have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, dementia and death, reports Health Day.

Researchers found an association between phobic anxiety and shorter telomeres in the women. They found that women who had high levels of phobic anxiety had shorter telemeters when compared to those who dint have such psychological stress. Also, they found the length of telemeters in women without the stress was similar to those who were around six years older than them.

The findings, thus suggest that phobic anxiety could cause premature aging. Experts say that phobic anxieties like agoraphobia or claustrophobia trigger intense fear in common circumstances people, which generally would not bother people without the disorder.

"Many people wonder about whether -- and how -- stress can make us age faster," study author Dr. Olivia Okereke of the BWH department of psychiatry, said in a hospital news release.

 "So, this study is notable for showing a connection between a common form of psychological stress -- phobic anxiety -- and a plausible mechanism for premature aging. However, this type of study design cannot prove cause-and-effect or which problem came first -- the anxiety or shorter telomeres."

The research results pave the way for more research that could define a definite link between anxiety and changes in telomere length.

The study was published online July 11 in the journal PLoS One.

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