This Just In: What Makes Some Girls Age Faster Than Their Friends

Daria in mirror

Thanks a lot, Mom.

It's no secret that stress makes people age faster than they should. I mean, look at your mom's hair and how she blames each and every grey strand on you. I mean, it is your fault that she's on the fast track to an early grave. But now a new study has discovered that not only are the stresses and depression a girl experiences on her own aging her, but so is that family history of depression, too. Your mom may be blaming you for her grey hair, but now you can blame her and your family history for the reason your life is passing before your eyes, relatively speaking.

The study, by professor Ian Gotlib at Stanford University, found that girls with both a history of stress and depression already in their blood have shorter telomeres. Telomeres are "caps on the ends of chromosomes, which get a little shorter every time a cell divides, or as a result of exposure to stress. Telomere length is like a biological clock corresponding to age, getting shorter as adults grow up." Yikes. It's like you're 15 years old one minute, then all of a sudden you're 62, wondering why you don’t have a retirement fund, and how the hell you totally missed out on all the fun of being 21. Thanks, mom.

Not only are telomeres speeding up the life, but it can also contribute to earlier death rates, as well as more frequent diseases and infections as the girls become women. The shorter telomeres found in 12-year-old girls meant that, biologically, they were about 18. However, this is just the case in girls and women; boys and men get off scot-free with this one.

So what can these girls do? Exercise both their bodies and their brains. Studies have found, at least in adults, that exercise can delay the shortening of telomeres in those who fall into the high-risk category. Also, "mindfulness training," in which the practice of managing stress and handling depression is a major focus can also help, but, of course, not reverse whatever damage has already been done.

The key to a long life, despite what this study is telling us, is keeping yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy. Those who have dealt with depression and stress on a personal level know that it’s never easy, but if it's going to cut your life by six years (or more), it's definitely something you may want to look into. It's one thing to grow old gracefully, but it's another thing to grow old way before your time.


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