MedPage Today (7/13) reports that a study supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health found that “chronic panic, phobia, and similar anxiety disorders may contribute to premature aging by shortening telomeres.” Olivia Okereke, MD, MS, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said, “The magnitude of this difference was comparable to that for women 6 years apart in age.” She added that telomeres shortening, a gradual process of loss of the repetitive DNA sequences capping off chromosomes that occurs when cells divide, “isn’t reversible.”
The Daily Mail (UK) (7/13, Bates) reports, “Researchers found that a common form of the stress, known as phobic anxiety, could trigger cellular damage leading to premature ageing.” Dr. Okereke says, “This study is notable for showing a connection between a common form of psychological stress – phobic anxiety – and a plausible mechanism for premature aging,” but it cannot “prove cause and effect” of which came first.
Reuters (7/13, Begley) reports that the rate of anxiety disorder diagnoses has grown drastically over the past 30 years. Many doctors say that advances in medicine, screen procedures, and proper training have led to the rise in the number of people being diagnosed with some forms of mental disorders. However, this also means that more people are being treated and helped by medical professionals.
— “Chronic Anxiety Speeds Aging, ” Crystal Phend, Medpage Today, July 12, 2012.