Depression can accelerate cellular ageing: Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Aug.


Depressed individuals show an increased risk of developing various ageing-related physical diseases like coronary heart disease,1 type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia and cancer. This might be partly due to unhealthy lifestyle behaviours. Evidence also suggest that this might be via independent effects of depression as well.Accelerated biological ageing  is suggested as one such independent route. Shorter telomere lengths (TL)  is seen in ageing related disorders . The same is seen in  depression as well. ( Simon et al 2006  Lung et al  2007 Hartmann et al 2010 Wolkowitz et al 2011)

JE Verhoeven, D Révész1, ES Epel, J Lin, OM Wolkowitz and BWJH Penninx studied whether TL was associated with MDD status in a large adult sample (N = 2407). Participants were from the ongoing longitudinal cohort  ofNetherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA). Three groups were created: control subjects, persons with remitted MDD and persons with current MDD. Leukocyte TL was measured by PCR. Severity of depression  in the past week was assessed by the 30-item Inventory of Depressive Symptoms—Self Report. Covariates studied included gender, age and years of education,BMI,alcohol consumption,smoking,physical activity and  somatic disorders.


Average TL in the entire sample was 5477 bp. TL exhibited a significant negative correlation with age (r = − 0.326, P o 0.001), which corresponded to a shortening rate of 14 bp per year.

Compared with healthy controls (mean bp=5541), TL was significantly shorter among remitted MDD patients (bp = 5459; P = 0.014) and current MDD patients (bp = 5961; P = 0.012), adjusted for age, gender and education.Differences remained significant in analyses fully adjusted for health and lifestyle variables.

Higher current depression severity  and longer symptom duration within the past 4 years  were associated with shorter TL

The differences observed indicate 4–6 years of accelerated aging for the current MDD sample as compared to controls.


Depression is associated with several years of biological aging, especially among those with the most severe and chronic symptoms.

Summary of the article:

Major depressive disorder and accelerated cellular agingresults from a large psychiatric cohort study.

Verhoeven JE, Révész D, Epel ES, Lin J, Wolkowitz OM, Penninx BW. Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Aug;19(8):895-901.

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