Mental & Emotional Health

PTSD Linked To Accelerated Aging

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is already linked with a number of conditions, including depression, anger and substance abuse. And now, researchers say, it appears to be linked to accelerated aging as well.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, published the finding in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

“This is the first study of its type to link PTSD, a psychological disorder with no established genetic basis, which is caused by external, traumatic stress, with long-term, systemic effects on a basic biological process such as aging,” said senior study author Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the Center on Healthy Aging and Senior Care at UC San Diego.

Researchers had previously noted a potential association between psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and acceleration of the aging process. In their analysis, the investigaotrs looked at multiple databases going to back to 2000.

According to a UCSD news release, there is no standardized definition of what constitutes premature or accelerated senescence. For guidance, the researchers looked at early aging phenomena associated with non-psychiatric conditions, such as Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, HIV infection and Down’s syndrome. The majority of evidence fell into three categories: biological indicators or biomarkers, such as leukocyte telomere length (LTL), earlier occurrence or higher prevalence of medical conditions associated with advanced age and premature mortality.

In their literature review, the UC San Diego team identified 64 relevant studies; 22 were suitable for calculating overall effect sizes for biomarkers, 10 for mortality.

All six studies looking specifically at LTL found reduced telomere length in persons with PTSD. Leukocytes are white blood cells. Telomeres are stretches of protective, repetitive nucleotide sequences at the ends of chromosomes. These sequences shorten with every cell replication and are considered a strong measure of the aging process in cells.

The scientists also found consistent evidence of increased pro-inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein and tumor necrosis factor alpha, associated with PTSD.

A majority of reviewed studies found increased medical comorbidity of PTSD with several targeted conditions associated with normal aging, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal ulcer disease and dementia.

Seven of 10 studies indicated a mild-to-moderate association of PTSD with earlier mortality, consistent with an early onset or acceleration of aging in PTSD.


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