Chronic psychosocial and financial burden accelerates 5-year telomere shortening: findings from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-019-0482-5
Leukocyte telomere length, a marker of immune system function, is sensitive to exposures such as psychosocial stressors and health-maintaining behaviors. Past research has determined that stress experienced in adulthood is associated with shorter telomere length, but is limited to mostly cross-sectional reports. We test whether repeated reports of chronic psychosocial and financial burden is associated with telomere length change over a 5-year period (years 15 and 20) from 969 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study, a longitudinal, population-based cohort, ages 18-30 at time of recruitment in 1985. We further examine whether multisystem resiliency, comprised of social connections, health-maintaining behaviors, and psychological resources, mitigates the effects of repeated burden on telomere attrition over 5 years. Our results indicate that adults with high chronic burden do not show decreased telomere length over the 5-year period. However, these effects do vary by level of resiliency, as regression results revealed a significant interaction between chronic burden and multisystem resiliency. For individuals with high repeated chronic burden and low multisystem resiliency (1 SD below the mean), there was a significant 5-year shortening in telomere length, whereas no significant relationships between chronic burden and attrition were evident for those at moderate and higher levels of resiliency. These effects apply similarly across the three components of resiliency. Results imply that interventions should focus on establishing strong social connections, psychological resources, and health-maintaining behaviors when attempting to ameliorate stress-related decline in telomere length among at-risk individuals.