Internalising Disorders and Leukocyte Telomere Erosion.

Monday 20th January 2014

Telomere length has emerged as a promising biomarker in studies that test the hypothesis that internalising psychiatric disorders are associated with accumulated cellular damage. In a study published today, researchers from the Dunedin Study tested the association between persistence of internalising disorders (depression, generalised anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder) and leukocyte telomere length (LTL).

Analyses showed that the persistence of internalising disorders repeated from ages 11 to 38 years predicted shorter LTL in a dose-response manner, specifically in men. This association was not accounted for by alternative explanatory factors, including childhood maltreatment, tobacco smoking, substance dependence, psychiatric medication use, poor physical health or low socioeconomic status. Additional analyses using DNA from blood collected at two time points (ages 26 and 38 years) showed LTL erosion was accelerated among men who were diagnosed with internalising disorder in the interim. No significant associations were found among women in any analysis, highlighting potential sex differences in internalising-related telomere biology. These findings point to a potential mechanism linking internalising disorders to accelerated biological aging in the first half of the life course, particularly in men. Because internalising disorders are treatable, the finding suggest the hypothesis that treating psychiatric disorders in the first half of the life course may reduce the population burden of age-related disease and extend health expectancy.

Shalev, I., Moffitt, T.E., Braithwaite, A.W., Dansese, A., Flemming, N., Goldman-Mellor, S., Harrington, H. L., Houts, R., Israel,S., Poulton, R., Robertson, S.P., Sugden, K., Williams, B.S. & Caspi, A. | 2014

Internalizing disorders and leukocyte telomere erosion: a prospective study of depression, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder

Molecular Psychiatry, advance online publication, 14 January 2014; doi:10.1038/mp.2013.183