Fndings in , published in the journal Translational Psychiatry show that chronic stress can indeed speed up aging. However, individuals can manage its effects by improving their emotion regulation and self control.
Recent scientific advances have allowed scientists to track chemical changes in DNA and measure biological age. This allows them to determine when people are naturally aging, but at different times. These “epigenetic clocks”, also known as chronology, have been shown to be more accurate predictors of longevity and health than the chronological age.
Yale researchers have used a “GrimAge” biological clock to answer two questions. Is there a way to slow down the clock and prolong a healthy life expectancy?
Rajita Sinha is the Foundations Fund Professor in Psychiatry at Yale. She is a professor of neuroscience at Yale Child Study Center and has spent many decades studying stress and how it can harm our mental and physical health.
For example, prolonged stress can increase the risk of addiction and heart disease. Sinha is also the director of Yale Interdisciplinary Stress Center. It can also affect metabolism and accelerate obesity-related diseases like diabetes. Stress can also affect our ability to control emotions and think clearly.
Sinha and Zachary Harvanek were part of a Yale team that explored whether stress can also accelerate aging in a healthy and young population. Ke Xu (associate professor of psychiatry) and Nia Fogelman (associate research scientist in psychiatry), were also co-authors.
They recruited 444 participants, aged 19 to 50, to provide blood samples to assess the age-related chemical changes detected by GrimAge and other indicators of health. Participants were also asked questions to determine their stress levels and psychological resilience.
The researchers discovered that even after taking into account demographic and behavioral factors like income and body mass index, those with high scores on chronic stress measures showed accelerated aging and physiological changes, such as an increase in insulin resistance.
Chronic stress did not affect everyone’s health in the same way. The subjects who scored higher on two psychological resilience measures, emotion regulation and control, were more resilient to stress’s effects on aging and insulin resistance. Harvanek stated that these results confirm the notion that chronic stress causes us to age faster, but they also indicate a promising way of possibly minimizing the negative effects of stress by strengthening emotion regulation as well as self-control.
He stated that the greater the psychological resilience of a subject, the greater their chances of living a longer, healthier life.
Sinha stated that we all want to feel empowered over our destiny. It is good to remind people that they should invest in their psychological health.