A new study has found that girls who are stressed and prone to depression may age before time.
The study has shown that girls who have a family history of depression respond to stressful situations by releasing higher levels of the hormone cortisol.
According to scientists, secretion of large amounts of cortisol can damage the immune system and organs, which includes the brain.
The researchers found that girls who have a history of depression also have telomeres that are shorter by the equivalent of six years in adults.
Telomeres are the caps on the ends of chromosomes, which get a little shorter each time a cell would divide, or as a result of exposure to stress.
The length of a telomere is a like a biological clock which corresponds to the age, getting shorter as humans grow up.
There have been studies in the past which have shown links between shorter telomeres and premature death, more frequent infections and chronic diseases in adults.
According to Professor Ian Gotlib, from Stanford University the findings of the study came as a surprise.
He says 'I did not think that these girls would have shorter telomeres than their low-risk counterparts — they're too young.'
In this study, 10 to 14-year old healthy girls were recruited by the researchers. These girls had a family history of depression and they were compared to girls who did not have a background.
Their response to stress was measured by asking them to count backward from 100 to seven and by interviewing them about stressful situations.
Before and after the test, the cortisol level of the girls was measured by researchers and the DNA samples were analyzed for telomere length.
Before the study, Professor Gotlib said 'no one had examined telomere length in young children who are at risk for developing depression'.
Girls aged 12-years who were at a higher risk had significantly shorter telomeres, which is a sign of ageing.
Professor Gotlib said 'it's the equivalent in adults of six years of biological aging.
But he added that 'it's not at all clear that that makes them 18, because no one has done this measurement in children'.
Image courtesy: Getty Images
News source: dailymail.co.uk
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