More researching is showing the possibility of a causal link between stress and premature aging and death.
By Dawn Flemming
We’ve all suspected that stress can age a person. In popular discourse, we say that a person’s hair turned white out of fear or stress. Although stress won’t necessarily turn your hair white (we need more evidence for this), research does support the proposition that stress can lead to premature aging.
We know that telomere length has been associated with aging. The longer it is, the higher the likelihood of long age. However, studies are showing that stress can significantly reduce the length of telomeres, thus leading to premature death and aging.
Psychology Today summarizes a 2014 study on parrots and loneliness:
An April 2014 study by scientists at the Vetmeduni Vienna in Austria examined the telomere length of isolated “lonely” African grey parrots compared to parrots with a partner. The researchers found that the telomere lengths of single parrots were shorter than those housed with a companion parrot. African grey parrots are highly social birds, but unfortunately in captivity they are often kept in isolation from other parrots.
Although this was on parrots, it may very well apply to humans as well.
In his book Aging Well, George E. Vaillant writes:
“The major factors involved in negative personality change at midlife are the same factors that caused negative aging at 70: bad habits, bad marriage, maladaptive defenses, and disease.”
A Huffington Post article also summarized a study that showed that work-related stress can also possibly lead to premature aging:
A 2012 study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, found that work-related exhaustion can can have a harmful effect on critical DNA in the cells. Researchers measured the length of DNA sections called telomeres, and found that individuals with the most job stress had the shortest telomeres — and when telomeres become too short, the cells can die or become damaged. Those who did not experience work exhaustion had longer telomeres. Telomere shortening has been linked to Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, the study notes.
“We know that the telomeres [wear down] over time, but possibly anxiety and stress may expedite that,” says Diller. “That is the closest we’ve gotten to understanding the relationship between stress and how our body may age faster.”
Managing stress should be a number one priority in life because it may very well shorten it and lead to early death. There are plenty of ways to manage stress. You may want to look into meditation, exercise and even seeing a therapist for better tips on managing issues in your life.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.