Stress Accelerates Immune Aging, New Study Claims

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Mental Health News

Researchers at the University of Southern California explored how stress accelerates immune aging and increases a person’s vulnerability to several diseases. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Understanding Immune Aging

As people age, their immune system experiences a dramatic downgrade. This condition, also called “immunosenescence”, sees the immune system producing too many ‘worn-out’ white blood cells and too few fresh ‘naive’ white blood cells ready to fight new infections. Immune aging can also be caused by factors like stress, trauma, poor diet, low exercise, etc.

Accelerated immune aging makes us vulnerable to health conditions, such as:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Viral infections (like COVID-19, etc.)
  • Pneumonia
  • Reduced efficacy of vaccines
  • Organ system aging

The Study

The researchers surveyed data sets from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study. They analyzed responses from 5744 American adults, aged over 50 years. The participants were asked to provide blood samples and fill out a questionnaire about their social stress, traumatic life events, lifetime discrimination, etc.

The Findings

The results revealed that stress accelerates immune aging. People with higher social stress experienced greater aging of the immune system and a higher percentage of worn-out white blood cells.

One of the lead authors, Eric Klopack, elaborated: “Age-related changes in the immune system play a critical role in declining health. This study helps clarify mechanisms involved in accelerated immune aging.” Hence, the findings of the study are instrumental in formulating interventions against accelerated immune aging.

To Know More You May Refer To

Klopack, E. T., Crimmins, E. M., Cole, S. W., Seeman, T. E., & Carroll, J. E. (2022). Social stressors associated with age-related T lymphocyte percentages in older US adults: Evidence from the US Health and Retirement Study. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(25), e2202780119. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2202780119

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