It is common knowledge that chronic stress makes you look old. I’m sure many of us have direct experiences of relatives or friends suddenly looking worn out after going into a stressful career or simply having to raise a toddler.
Stress makes you look older
In fact, the most noticeable example of stress making an individual look older is the United States Presidency. I remember George W. Bush Jr. looking like George W. Bush Senior when he was done with his two terms, or President Obama looking noticeably whiter, in the hair area, after serving his first term.
The co-founder of RealAge.com Dr. Michael Roizen said “a person who has been president eight years has the risk of disability or dying of someone who is 16 years older.” That statement brings us to a very important question.
Does stress not only make us look older but literally accelerate our aging process?
Anxiety and work stress shortens Telomeres
According to two studies published by PLOS one, work-related stress and phobic anxiety are correlated with a shorter Telomere Length. Telomeres are basically the “otter-box” of our chromosomes. Serving as repetitive nucleotide sequences at the ends of a chromatid, they prevent our genetic data from being destroyed thus making sure that our cell division keeps going. It is important to keep our genes protected because if cell division stops or slows down, simply speaking, we die. The fact is that we all eventually die because Telomere slowly shortens as we age until its is exhausted.
The results of both studies show that both anxiety and work-related stress contribute to a shorten telomere length. In the anxiety study observing 5,243 women aged from 42 to 69, researchers have found that higher anxiety levels mean a shorter Telomere length. The work-related stress study, which investigate 2,911 men and women aged from 30 to 64, showed prolonged work-stress is correlated with shorter Telomere length similarly.
Stress and anxiety accelerates aging
The results of the studies are clear. Stress and anxiety accelerates the degeneration of our genetic protection. In essense, stress and anxiety are literally bringing us closer to our graves. However, PLOS ONE itslef in a blog post reminded readers of a very important scientific advice, “correlation does not mean causation.” The results of the studies are significant, but it is a fact that more scientific research needs to be done in order to draw more aggressive assumptions about the relationship between stress and lifespan.
The implications of these findings mean that stress and anxiety start taking its toll no matter what your age is. The antitheses of stress and anxiety, which are relaxation and stress-relief, may help you live a longer life by protecting the protectors of our precious genes. So the next time you decide to take a break from a long stressful day, remind yourself that not only are you preventing yourself from looking old, you are also slowing down your aging process.
Related: Lose Weight Easier With Relaxation
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1. Ahola K, Sirén I, Kivimäki M, Ripatti S, Aromaa A, et al. (2012) Work-Related Exhaustion and Telomere Length: A Population-Based Study. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40186. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040186
2. Okereke OI, Prescott J, Wong JYY, Han J, Rexrode KM, et al. (2012) High Phobic Anxiety Is Related to Lower Leukocyte Telomere Length in Women. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40516. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040516