There may be another reason to get treatment for depression. A recent study suggests that the illness could cost as much as four to six years to a person’s life, perhaps explaining the increase in health complaints from those who suffer from the disease.
The results of the study were published in the November 12, 2013 issue of Molecular Psychiatry, a publication that documents work in the field of psychiatry. More than 2,000 people who have been diagnosed as having either major depressive disorder or clinical depression were studied, as well as more than 500 who had never been diagnosed with the illness.
Impact on Cells
Researchers examined blood samples of all participants, paying particular attention to cell makeup. During the course of the study, scientists found a difference in the telomeres attached to cells in those who suffered from depression. Telomeres are often compared to the ends of shoelaces in the way they protect a cell from deterioration and aging.
In those who suffer from depression, telomeres were found to be shorter than those not suffering from the condition. Made from DNA, telomeres naturally shorten over time, but the study indicated that depression might accelerate the aging process. After ruling out all other contributing factors, researchers determined that depressed patients, on average, had 83 to 84 fewer base pairs of DNA than those in the study who had never been diagnosed with depression.
Typical DNA Loss
On average, people use 14 to 20 base pairs of DNA per year due to aging. By reviewing the results, researchers concluded those who suffered from depression would typically age four to six years faster than those who didn’t (with all other factors that contribute to aging removed).
Cause or Effect?
One thing that still remains to be studied is whether the shorter telomere length actually contributes to depression, rather than depression causing the DNA pair shortage. In the past, reduced telomere length has been linked to multiple other conditions, including cancer, stroke, and heart disease.
Other studies have found that those who live overall healthier lifestyles have longer telomeres than those who live less healthy lifestyles.
Potential Reversal with Treatment
Researchers are eager to study whether lengthening telomeres might improve an individual’s health. Earlier this year, researchers at UC San Francisco conducted a pilot study that indicated lifestyle changes like a healthy diet, regular moderate aerobic exercise, and stress management could actually lengthen telomeres.
Online Counseling for Depression
One thing is clear – treating depression is important. There are many tools for this, and you might find it helpful to talk with an online therapist. With online therapy, you decide the time, you decide the place. For more information and to set up a free consultation, contact Counseling On Demand.