A new study has found that people living with major depressive disorder are biologically older than people without depression, and that childhood trauma exacerbates this effect. The results illuminate the epigenetic mechanisms that might explain this discrepancy.
Major depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the United States.
In fact, more than 16 million adults will have had at least one major depressive episode during the past year.
The condition has been linked to various other adverse outcomes, from a shorter life span to a higher risk of cardiovascular problems.
New research shows that major depression may also mean premature aging. Scientists led by Laura Han—from the Amsterdam University Medical Center in the Netherlands—studied the DNA structure of people with depression and made an intriguing discovery.
Han and colleagues found that the DNA of people with major depression is older by 8 months, on average, than that of people who do not have the condition.
The researchers presented their findings at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference, held in Barcelona, Spain, and they published their study in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
This effect of premature aging was more significant in people who had had adverse childhood experiences, such as violence, trauma, neglect, or abuse.
In the US, almost 35 million children have experienced some form of trauma, according to a national survey. That is almost half of the nation’s child population.
Han and colleagues examined the DNA of 811 people with depression and 319 people without. The participants were enrolled in the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety.
Using blood samples, the researchers examined how the participants’ DNA changed with age. The study revealed that epigenetic changes took place more quickly in people with depression.
Epigenetics is the study of the changes in gene expression that do not affect the DNA sequence. Such changes can occur as a result of many factors, including environment and lifestyle.
Source: MDLinx Psychiatry