The ability to anticipate future events allows us to plan and exert control over our lives, but it may also contribute to stress-related increased risk for the diseases of aging. The psychologists found that those most threatened by the anticipation of stressful tasks in every segment of daily life, at work, public speaking, etc. looked older at the cellular level. The researchers assessed cellular age by measuring telomeres, which are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. Short telomeres index older cellular age and are associated with increased risk for a host of chronic diseases of aging, including cancer, heart disease and stroke. How you respond to a brief stressful experience on your work may reveal a lot about how you respond to stressful experiences in your daily life, such as losing your keys, getting stuck in traffic or leading a meeting at work. The study will be published in the May issue of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
- Aoife O’Donovan, A. Janet Tomiyama, Jue Lin, Eli Puterman, Nancy E. Adler, Margaret Kemeny, Owen M. Wolkowitz, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Elissa S. Epel. Stress appraisals and cellular aging: A key role for anticipatory threat in the relationship between psychological stress and telomere length. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.01.007
- Image courtesy National Human Genome Research