Women who suffer from a type of anxiety known as phobic anxiety or social anxiety which is an irrational fear of situations such as large crowds, other particular social situations or elements of the outside world have been found to age significantly faster than their calm and collected counterparts.
The research that was conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston surveyed 5,000 women establishing if they suffered from any phobic symptoms. The researchers then correlated their questionnaire responses to blood samples.
It was found that, middle-aged and older women who reported having high phobic anxiety levels were found to have shorter telomeres. Telomeres are found at the end of every chromosome in the body and are known to protect the genetic material they surround. Shortened or damaged telomeres have previously been associated with increased incidence of some cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and premature mortality.
The current research found that women had significantly shorter telomeres if they had higher levels of psychological stress and phobic anxiety. This was reported to equate to a 6 year ageing gap. Even when the researchers included factors that have previously been shown to account for differences in telomeres length such as BMI, physical activity levels, smoking and eating habits, the conclusions that psychological stress and anxiety is associated with faster aging remained. It should be noted however that the research could not categorically confirm the causal direction.
Mindfulness has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety and stress, in light of this research it could therefore indicate that Mindfulness could slow down the aging process in middle aged and older women.