Elissa Epel

Often, the human mind tends to focus on the negative outcomes of things. Anticipation of a stressful event could increase the risk for age-related diseases, assert scientists from the University of California (UCSF).

As part of the study, 50 women who were taking care of their parents with dementia, solved math problems and indulged in public speaking. The team found that women who believed a stressful event was knocking at their doors in the coming future were seemingly older at cellular level.

“We are getting closer to understanding how chronic stress translates into the present moment. As stress researchers, we try to examine the psychological process of how people respond to a stressful event and how that impacts their neurobiology and cellular health. And we’re making some strides in that,” commented Elissa Epel, PhD, an associate professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and a lead investigator on the study.

According to the findings, women who were caregivers appeared to anticipate more stress than non-caretakers. This inclination towards awaiting more threat apparently led to short telomeres in the subjects. Therefore, chronically stressed persons with high levels of threat anticipation supposedly manifested cellular aging.

Short telomeres are markers for older cellular age and diseases related to aging inclusive of conditions like cancer, heart disease or stroke. The article will be published in the May issue of the journal, Brain, Behavior and Immunity.