What do telomeres, self-esteem, and chronic stress have in common? Declining self-esteem increases levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – and stress causes premature shortening of telomeres which leads to premature aging.
So to avoid premature aging, learn to manage stress better since it’s hard to avoid stress.
A study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology found higher cortisol levels in individuals who reported a decline in self-esteem. This was more true in individuals with a history of depression or stress.
The study group included 147 adults over the age of 60. The researchers concluded that improving self-esteem (give every 60 plus year old a trophy – just kidding) could help prevent health problems. At the very least steps should be taken to prevent a decline in self-esteem which seems to naturally occur with aging. Self-esteem protects against threats to health that occur in the transition to older adulthood.
That’s why it’s important to stay active mentally and physically as we age. It’s easier to maintain our self-esteem if we remain engaged throughout the aging process. It seems to me complete retirement probably leads to a decline in self-esteem, but that’s just a hunch.
The researchers plan to look at the association between self-esteem and immune function in the future.
Premature Aging and Telomeres
Psychological stress is linked to premature aging as measured by telomere length. A study involving men looked at telomere length and an individual’s ability to recover from stress.
Men were divided into three groups. One group had long telomeres and two groups (one group had high telomerase activity and the other low telomerase activity) had short telomeres. Individuals were given tasks designed to cause psychological stress. Cortisol levels increased in men in each of the three groups but in men with long telomeres cortisol levels quickly returned to baseline.
It was also noted that men with short telomeres and high telomerase activity were more hostile, had less social support, and were less optimistic than men with long telomeres. It was felt by the researchers that these men suffer from chronic stress and that interferes with normal regulatory processes.
Maybe short telomeres are a cause of “grumpy old man syndrome” – that and low testosterone.
Bottomline: to avoid premature aging and to enjoy life more learn to control and manage stress as best as possible. Stay positive and act in a way that makes you happy about yourself.