Shorter Telomeres Among Individuals With Physical Disability: The Moderating Role of Perceived Stress

Yael Lahav, Sharon Avidor, David Levy, Avi Ohry, Gabi Zeilig, Meir Lahav, Hava Golander, Anat Chacham Guber, Orit Uziel, Ruth Defrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: Evidence suggests that individuals with physical disability may suffer from psychological distress and accelerated cellular aging, manifested by shortened telomere length (TL), compared with healthy individuals. Studies indicate that high levels of perceived stress and depression may increase the physiological susceptibility and, thus, may contribute to a short TL. However, the moderating role of perceived stress and depression within the relationship between physical disability and TL remains unknown. Method: The participants consisted of 119 male subjects (mean age 54.36 years, range 35-70). Of them, 30 were able-bodied and 89 had a physical disability: 34 were due to poliomyelitis (polio) and 55 were due to spinal cord injury. Blood samples for TL analysis were collected; the participants completed questionnaires and underwent disability evaluation. Results: Participants with disability had a shorter TL as well as elevated levels of perceived stress and depression compared with able-bodied controls. Both the perceived stress and depression were correlated with a shorter TL. Nonetheless, perceived stress, rather than depression, moderated the relationship between disability and TL; among participants with higher perceived stress levels, in particular, individuals with physical disability had a shorter TL than the able-bodied controls. Discussion: The present findings suggest that individuals with physical disability and who exhibit high levels of perceived stress may be particularly vulnerable for accelerated cellular aging, suggesting that perceived stress can be used as a valuable target for intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1384-1393
Number of pages10
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume77
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2022

Keywords

  • Depression
  • Perceived stress
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Telomere length

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