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Telomere attrition might be one of the mechanisms through which psychosocial stress leads to somatic disease. To date it is unknown if exposure to adverse life events in adulthood is associated with telomere shortening prospectively. In the current study we investigated whether life events are associated with shortening of telomere length (TL).
Participants were 1094 adults (mean age 53.1, range 33–79 years) from the PREVEND cohort. Data were collected at baseline (T1) and at two follow-up visits after 4 years (T2) and 6 years (T3). Life events were assessed with an adjusted version of the List of Threatening Events (LTE). TL was measured by monochrome multiplex quantitative PCR at T1, T2, and T3. A linear mixed model was used to assess the effect of recent life events on TL prospectively. Multivariable regression analyses were performed to assess whether the lifetime life events score or the score of life events experienced before the age of 12 predicted TL cross-sectionally. All final models were adjusted for age, sex, body mass index, presence of chronic diseases, frequency of sports, smoking status, and level of education.
Recent life events significantly predicted telomere attrition prospectively (B = −0.031, p = 0.007). We were not able to demonstrate a significant cross-sectional relationship between the lifetime LTE score and TL. Nor did we find exposure to adverse life events before the age of 12 to be associated with TL in adulthood.
Exposure to recent adverse life events in adulthood is associated with telomere attrition prospectively.
Telomere attrition, causing accelerated aging, might be one of the mechanisms through which neuroticism leads to somatic disease and increased all-cause mortality. In the current study we investigated whether neuroticism is prospectively associated with shorter telomere length (TL), a biological marker of aging.
Participants were 3432 adults (mean age 52.9 years, range 32–79). Data were collected at baseline (T1) and at two follow-up visits after 4 years (T2) and 6 years (T3). Neuroticism was assessed using the 12-item neuroticism scale of the Revised Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ-R) at T2 and T3. TL was measured by a monochrome multiplex quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay at T1, T2 and T3. A linear mixed model was used to assess whether neuroticism could predict TL prospectively after adjusting for age, sex, body mass index (BMI), frequency of sports, smoking status, presence of chronic diseases and level of education.
Neuroticism was a significant negative predictor of TL at follow-up (B = −0.004, p = 0.044) after adjusting for sex, age, baseline TL and various biological and lifestyle factors.
High neuroticism is significantly and prospectively associated with telomere attrition independent of lifestyle and other risk factors.
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