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Behavioral Science, Neuroscience, Research, Women's Health

Study finds phobias may speed biological aging

As if phobias weren’t scary enough, new research finds that having intense phobic anxiety may speed up the biological aging process in middle-aged and older women.

A Scientific American Observations post reports on the study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston:

The researchers examined blood samples and survey results from 5,243 women ages 42 to 69 from the ongoing Nurses Health Study cohort. They found that women who had the highest levels of phobic anxiety had biological markers of women who were six years older. The findings were published online July 11 in PLoS ONE.

[Olivia Okereke, MD, SM] and her colleagues looked specifically at telomeres, the protective ends of chromosomes that keep genetic information from being lost during cell division. As we age, our telomeres shorten naturally. Scientists suspect this shortening results from exposure to oxidative stress and inflammation. (Shorter telomeres, especially for one’s age, have been implicated in upping the risk for heart disease, cancer and dementia.)

The study authors note that their findings demonstrate a connection, rather than a causal link, between phobic anxiety and premature aging.

Previously: Study suggests anticipation of stress may accelerate cellular aging and Study shows cell health linked to positive mood changes in meditation
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