Home mental fitness How Depression Leads to Premature Aging and Age-Related Diseases

How Depression Leads to Premature Aging and Age-Related Diseases

by Marianne Navada
cellular aging depression

A recent study links major depressive disorder (MDD) with cellular aging. We know that depression increases the risk for certain age-related diseases such as heart problems, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, but why? Our understanding of cellular aging and depression may be the answer.

What’s New About the Study

Previous studies that have linked MDD with cellular aging measured telomeres. Telomeres are DNA structures that act as protective caps for our cells. Shortened telomeres mean that the cells may die or experience senescence. Telomeres provide genomic integrity and stability. Additionally, “the rate of telomere shortening can be either increased or decreased by specific lifestyle factors“, such as diet and activities.

The current study from the University of California, San Francisco, adds to the growing body of literature by looking at the patterns our cells undergo over time, more than just length.

This pattern referred to as the “GrimAge”–a mathematical algorithm which “predicts an individual’s remaining lifespan based on cellular methylation patterns.” To clarify, methylation refers to a process that changes our DNA from its original structure. Researchers find that depression leads to an increased mortality risk based on methylation.

Additionally, the study controlled for other factors associated with mortality such as smoking, BMI, and sex. 

Did You Know? 

The World Health Organization ranks MDD as the single largest contributor to global disability and affects around 300 million individuals worldwide.  

Read our summary of Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To, for more information on cellular aging.

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