Stress and Aging - Dose / Response and Permanence?

While “stress” has frequently been identified as an important factor in accelerated aging, I wonder if they’ve developed a way to precisely measure and track this over the long term, if they’ve identified the mechanisms (is it just cortisol and glucocorticoids, or much more), and if they have a good idea of the dose/response relationship and how long the impact persists… either without treatment, or via different treatments.

And while this study looks more at sudden high stress / trauma events (like surgery), I wonder how this compares to long-term stresses - e.g. high stress jobs, or even living in dangerous areas (e.g Ukraine now, or bad parts of Chicago or other high crime neighborhoods) or ongoing issues like family poverty, or even loneliness, or mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, which also probably cause higher stress levels.

Seems like one day we may all want to wear a Fitbit like device that measures our ongoing stress levels of days and weeks and months, perhaps via GSR (galvanic skin response) and HRV (heart rate variability)…

It would be interesting to to “multi-omic” biological age measures on people prior to high stress situations, after high stress situations (e.g. after the war in Ukraine), and then test results with several months of rapamycin use…

Here is a new study out of Harvard, and with Steve Horvath’s participation:

We report that severe stress triggers transient increases in biological age in mice and humans.

Together, these data show that biological age undergoes a rapid increase in response to diverse forms of stress, which is reversed following recovery from stress. Our study uncovers a new layer of aging dynamics that should be considered in future studies. Elevation of biological age by stress may be a quantifiable and actionable target for future interventions.

Full Paper Here:

2022.05.04.490686v1.full.pdf (2.3 MB)


Unfortunately they can not restore gray hair caused by stress.
I got most of my grays after a 6 month super stress period, so stress definitely causes rapid aging in periods.


Good point - you are right. At least so far, they have not resolved this issue. And while the paper above talks about the biological age increase as transient, there is obviously some aspects which may be transient, but others not transient…

Its interesting how rapamycin has been shown to protect stem cells from aging… makes me wonder whether topical rapamycin on the head might prevent (and/or system rapamycin) might help delay hair greying… in high stress situations…


New related research on stress and accelerated aging:

Stress — in the form of traumatic events, job strain, everyday stressors and discrimination — accelerates aging of the immune system, potentially increasing a person’s risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and illness from infections such as COVID-19, according to a new USC study.

As expected, people with higher stress scores had older-seeming immune profiles, with lower percentages of fresh disease fighters and higher percentages of worn-out white blood cells. The association between stressful life events and fewer ready to respond, or naive, T cells remained strong even after controlling for education, smoking, drinking, BMI and race or ethnicity.

Some sources of stress may be impossible to control, but the researchers say there may be a workaround.

T-cells — a critical component of immunity — mature in a gland called the thymus, which sits just in front of and above the heart. As people age, the tissue in their thymus shrinks and is replaced by fatty tissue, resulting in reduced production of immune cells. Past research suggests that this process is accelerated by lifestyle factors like poor diet and low exercise, which are both associated with social stress.

“In this study, after statistically controlling for poor diet and low exercise, the connection between stress and accelerated immune aging wasn’t as strong,” said Klopack. “What this means is people who experience more stress tend to have poorer diet and exercise habits, partly explaining why they have more accelerated immune aging.”

Improving diet and exercise behaviors in older adults may help offset the immune aging associated with stress.

Full Paper:

Social stressors associated with age-related T lymphocyte percentages in older US adults: Evidence from the US Health and Retirement Study