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Anxiety disorders and accelerated cellular ageing.

Authors: Josine E JE. Verhoeven, Dóra D. Révész, Patricia P. van Oppen, Elissa S ES. Epel, Owen M OM. Wolkowitz, Brenda W J H BW. Penninx
Published: 02/05/2015, The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science


Anxiety disorders increase the risk of onset of several ageing-related somatic conditions, which might be the consequence of accelerated cellular ageing.


To examine the association between anxiety status and leukocyte telomere length (LTL) as an indicator of cellular ageing.


Data are from individuals with current (n = 1283) and remitted (n = 459) anxiety disorder, and controls (n = 582) with no psychiatric disorder from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. We determined DSM-IV anxiety diagnoses and clinical characteristics by structured psychiatric interviews and self-report questionnaires; LTL was assessed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction and converted into base pairs (bp).


Patients in the current anxiety group (bp = 5431) had significantly shorter LTL compared with the control group (bp = 5506, P = 0.01) and the remitted anxiety group (bp = 5499, P = 0.03) in analyses adjusted for sociodemographics, health and lifestyle. The remitted anxiety group did not differ from the control group (P = 0.84), however, time since remission was positively related with LTL. Furthermore, anxiety severity scores were associated with LTL in the whole sample, in line with a dose-response association.


Patients with current - but not remitted - anxiety disorder had shorter telomere length, suggesting a process of accelerated cellular ageing, which in part may be reversible after remission.

© The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2015.
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