Computer predicts older age in people with depression

People with a depression likely experience stress, both mentally and physically. Previous research has shown that depressed people are at risk for prematurely developing aging-related disorders, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or cancer. "Globally, an estimated 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, of which many feel older than they actually are", says Laura Han, researcher at GGZ inGeest and VU University Medical Center. Together with colleagues from Amsterdam and the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Han researched whether depressed people are estimated to be older based on patterns on the DNA. They recently published their findings in the renowned scientific journal The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Laura Han: "Two people with the same date of birth can age at different rates and may pass away at diverging moments in time". Current "machine learning" methods, or smart computer algorithms, now enable researchers to accurately predict someone's age based on patterns on the DNA. However, in certain diseases, such as Alzheimer's, cardiovascular diseases, or cancer, people are consistently estimated to be older by these algorithms. "It seems as if the biological clock in people suffering from these diseases is ticking faster and the body is aging at an increased rate. Likewise, depression seems to make you biologically older", says Han. "Even more so, in our study we observed that those who suffered from both depression and trauma in their childhood, were estimated to be even older. We now know that certain DNA-patterns are important in this matter, but research with multiple time measurements is needed to confirm that depression actually accelerates the biological aging process.  

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The full article can be read here: Han et al. Epigenetic Aging in Major Depressive Disorder. The American Journal of Psychiatry. Published online April 16th, 2018.

source: Website VUmc