Sad Man
Suffering from depression can make one look physically older than his/her actual age, a new study reveals.hang_in_there/Flickr

People suffering from depression look physically older than their actual age, a new study reveals.

The mental condition accelerates the ageing process by affecting the normal structure of cells, researchers said while unveiling the secrets behind the occurrence.

The study included more than 2,400 participants, including patients with a major depressive disorder (1095), patients who completely recovered from the mental condition (802) and those who never experienced the mental condition in their life (510).

To study the role of depression in the ageing process, researchers conducted lab experiments on telomeres - the sections of DNA found at the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres manage the ageing process by playing a major role in division of cells. The length of telomeres becomes shorter with each stage of cell division. The process continues until the telomeres become too short, leading to cell death and ageing.  

Tests showed that people who were suffering from depression or who had a history of depression earlier possessed shorter telomeres, compared to those who never went through an episode of depression, Live Science reportedWhile providing solid evidence to prove the association between the two, the researchers found that length of the telomere decreased with an increase in the severity of depression and duration of the condition.

The findings remained the same even though other factors that speed up the ageing process like addiction to alcohol and smoking were taken into consideration. "Psychological distress, as experienced by depressed persons, has a large, detrimental impact on the 'wear and tear' of a person's body, resulting in accelerated biological aging," study author Josine Verhoeven, from the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, told Live Science. "The findings might help explain the variety of health complaints often experienced by people with major depression."

The findings of the study have been published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Depression is an outcome of chemical changes in the brain caused by stress or hormonal changes. During a major depressive episode, a person experiences severe and persistent depression and loss of interest in everyday activities, often followed by problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration and self-image. Treating this condition early is crucial as untreated depression can lead to self-destructive behaviour and suicide.