Psychological and biological resilience modulate the effects of stress on epigenetic aging
Our society is experiencing more stress than ever before, and this leads to negative consequences, both psychiatric and physical.
Stress can increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction, and can reduce psychological resilience measures such as emotion regulation and self-control, which are known to protect against psychiatric and physical health problems. In particular, exposure to emotional stress reduces cognitive and emotion regulation abilities, and this effect may be modulated by cortisol. Additionally, by reducing self-control abilities, stress negatively affects individuals’ likelihood of engaging in healthy behaviors such as exercising or maintaining a healthy diet, and may lead them to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, alcohol, and drug use. Chronic stress is associated with negative long-term health outcomes. Stress is likely to be associated with rapid aging.
There is growing evidence that cumulative stress can negatively impact health by accelerating the cellular aging process. A study presents new findings that cumulative stress is associated with accelerated epigenetic aging in a healthy, young-to-middle-aged community sample. The relationship between stress and accelerated aging was evident in those with poor emotional regulation. Additionally, rapid aging is related to behavioral factors such as smoking and BMI. Both stress and GAA* were associated with changes in insulin resistance moderated through self-control. These results suggest a relationship between stress, physiology, and accelerated aging governed by emotion regulation and self-control.
The relationship between stress and epigenetic aging appears to be modulated through specific psychological traits, including emotion regulation and self-control. Those with better emotional regulation and higher levels of self-control were observed to have a slower aging rate, even at similar stress levels.
These results suggest that cumulative stress is associated with epigenetic aging in a healthy population and that these associations may be modified by biobehavioral resilience factors. The negative effects of stress can be slowed down by improving emotional regulation skills.
* Grimage (GAA): Estimates lifespan and health in units of years and tests whether potential lifestyle interventions can slow biological aging.
– Lu, AT, Quach, A., Wilson, JG, Reiner, AP, Aviv, A., Raj, K., … & Horvath, S. (2019). DNA methylation GrimAge strongly predicts life span oath healthspan. Aging ( Albany NY), 11(2), 303.
– Harvanek, Z.M., Fogelman, N., Xu, K., & Sinha, R. (2021). Psychological oath biological resilience modulates the effects of stress on epigenetics aging. Translational Psychiatry, 11(1), 1-9.