Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, Temperament, and the Pathway to Cellular Senescence.

Author: Connolly SL1, Stoop TB2, Logue MW2,3, Orr EH4,5, De Vivo I4,5, Miller MW2,3, Wolf EJ2,3
Author Information:
1Psychology Service, VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
2National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
3Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
4Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
5Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Conference/Journal: J Trauma Stress.
Date published: 2018 Oct 19
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1002/jts.22325. [Epub ahead of print] , Word Count: 234


Traumatic stress is thought to be associated with shortened telomere length (TL) in leukocytes, an age-related marker of increased risk for cellular senescence, although findings thus far have been mixed. We assessed associations between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity, temperament, and TL in a sample of 453 White, non-Hispanic, middle-aged, trauma-exposed male and female veterans and civilians. Given that prior research has suggested an association between PTSD and accelerated cellular age, we also examined associations between TL and an index of accelerated cellular age derived from DNA methylation data (DNAm age). Analyses revealed that, controlling for chronological age, PTSD was not directly associated with TL but rather this association was moderated by age, β = -.14, p = .003, ΔR2 = .02. Specifically, PTSD severity evidenced a stronger negative association with TL among relatively older participants (≥ 55 years of age). In a subset of veterans with data pertaining to temperament (n = 150), positive emotionality, and, specifically, a drive toward achievement, β = .26, p = .002, ΔR2 = .06, were positively associated with TL. There was no evidence of an association between age-adjusted TL and accelerated DNAm age. Collectively, these results indicate that older adults may be more vulnerable to the negative health effects of PTSD but that traits such as achievement, resilience, and psychological hardiness may be protective. These findings underscore the importance of identifying reliable biomarkers of cellular aging and senescence and of determining the biological mechanisms that contribute to stress-related disease and decline.

PMID: 30338579 DOI: 10.1002/jts.22325

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