Link Between Physical and Mental Health: Depression and Aging

elderlyIt has long been claimed that there is a definite link between mental and physical well-being, that our mental state has a heavy impact on our physical welfare.  Now, a new study has possibly actually proven it, vis-à-vis the effect of depression on the aging process.  In a study of over 2,000 individuals documented in Molecular Psychiatry, it seemed that cells looked biologically order in those who were severely depressed, or even those who had dealt with deep depression in their past.  Such visible distinctions could not be attributed to other facts (like smoking, obesity, etc.)

Even though it has long been determined that severe depression can lead to an increase in various diseases (often due to the unhealthy lifestyle that often goes hand-in-hand with depression such as poor diet, alcohol/drug abuse etc.).  But until now it has not been proven that the cells actually look biologically older.

The way the study was conducted was through the measurement of telomeres (cell structures) which are the “caps” at the end of chromosomes that protect DNA during cell division.  What usually happens is that telomeres get a little shorter each time cells divide.  It is thought that their length is an index of a cell’s aging.  It was found that telomeres were shorter in those who had encountered more depression, indicating cellular aging in those with depression is accelerated by several years.

Still, if one is already on the road to aging due to depression, there are things that can be done.  Since people over 50 are more prone to cases of clinical depression. Time and again, studies have shown that depression can actually be prevented with regular physical activity.  The problem is, as people age, it is harder to get moving, thus they don’t, and this leads to potential depression.  It is indeed a potentially vicious cycle.  Still, start moving and keep pushing it.

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In addition, other studies have shown that adopting a Mediterranean diet can prevent – or slow down – the aging brain.  Indeed, according to a study undertaken by Annals of Neurology, such a diet could highly benefit the central nervous system-related axes – and is inversely associated with depression.

So for those suffering from depression, realize the seriousness of the matter but then take actions to change it – it is probably affecting a lot more than you realize.



Angie is a home health nurse who has been working with patients for over 20 years. In her free time, she enjoys dabbling in the stock market, taking spinning classes, cooking and gardening. She loves being the editor at Sunstone. Reach her at angie[at]

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