The implications of war captivity and long-term psychopathology trajectories for telomere length

Zahava Solomon, Noga Tsur, Yafit Levin, Orit Uziel, Meir Lahav, Avi Ohry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background Previous findings have demonstrated the link between trauma, its psychopathological aftermath and cellular aging, as reflected in telomere length. However, as long-term examinations of psychopathology following trauma are scarce, very little is known regarding the repercussions of depression and PTSD trajectories of psychopathology for telomeres. The current study examined the implications of war captivity and depression/PTSD trajectories on telomere length. Methods Ninety-nine former prisoners of war (ex-POWs) from the 1973 Yom Kippur War were evaluated for depression and PTSD at 18, 30, 35 and 42 years after the war. Data on leukocyte telomere length of ex-POWs and 79 controls was collected 42 years after the war. Results Ex-POWs had shorter telomeres compared to controls (Cohen's d = .5 indicating intermediate effect). Ex-POWs with chronic depression had shorter telomeres compared to those with delayed onset of depression (Cohen's d = 4.89), and resilient ex-POWs (Cohen's d =  3.87), indicating high effect sizes. PTSD trajectories were not implicated in telomere length (Partial eta2 = .16 and p = .11). Conclusion The findings suggest that the detrimental ramifications of war captivity are extensive, involving premature cellular senesces. These findings further point to the wear-and-tear effect of long-term depression, but not PTSD, on telomere length. Explanations for the findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-128
Number of pages7
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume81
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Depression
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Telomeres
  • War captivity

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