So much of the mainstream talk you hear about anti-aging seems to focus mainly on the body, as if the mind were totally separate. But new research in Translational Psychiatry offers a good reminder of why nurturing emotional health and resilience is just as important for healthy aging through Radiant Health as good nutrition, exercise, and the rest.
Its authors started out with three specific questions:
First, is cumulative stress related to epigenetic markers of biological aging in a healthy young-to-middle-aged community population? Second, if stress is associated with epigenetic aging, does stress-related physiology contribute to stress-associated biological aging? And finally, how do psychological factors that contribute to resilience modulate these relationships?
To answer, they recruited 444 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 50. Each underwent a complete physical health review, psychological evaluation, and stress interview. Each also did self-assessments and a morning biochemical evaluation after fasting. Insulin, glucose, and cortisol measures were also periodically taken.
The researchers then used an epigenetic clock called “GrimAge” to measure accelerated aging and predict participants’ lifespans.
Even after controlling for variables such as income and race, as well as behavioral factors, the researchers found a relationship between total stress and faster biological aging.
Now, that might not surprise you much, but here’s where it gets interesting: The research team also found that psychological resilience factors such as emotional regulation and self-control changed things.
Stress-related aging was greater for those who were less able to regulate their emotions. WIth better emotional regulation, no significant acceleration was seen.
These results suggest a relationship between stress, physiology, and accelerated aging that is moderated by emotion regulation and self-control. Overall, these findings point to multiple potentially modifiable biobehavioral targets of intervention that may reduce or prevent the deleterious effects of stress on aging and long-term health outcomes.
One of the study’s authors, Zachary Harvanek, summed it up more simply for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“These results support the popular notion that stress makes us age faster, but they also suggest a promising way to possibly minimize these adverse consequences of stress through strengthening emotion regulation and self-control,” Harvanek said.
“We all like to feel like we have some agency over our fate,” Sinha said. “So it is a cool thing to reinforce in people’s minds that we should make an investment in our psychological health.”
Very cool, indeed.