Depression 'makes us biologically older'
Depression can make us physically older by speeding up the ageing process in our cells, according to a study. Lab tests showed cells looked biologically older in people who were severely depressed or who had been in the past. These visible differences in a measure of cell ageing called telomere length couldn't be explained by other factors, such as whether a person smoked.
The findings, in more than 2,000 people, appear in Molecular Psychiatry. Experts already know that people with major depression are at increased risk of age-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. This might be partly down to unhealthy lifestyle behaviours such as alcohol use and physical inactivity.
But scientists suspect depression takes its own toll on our cells. To investigate, Josine Verhoeven from the VU University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, along with colleagues from the US, recruited 2,407 people to take part in the study.
More than one third of the volunteers were currently depressed, a third had experienced major depression in the past and the rest had never been depressed.
The volunteers were asked to give a blood sample for the researchers to analyse in the lab for signs of cellular ageing.