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Joining forces; Telomeres, social, psychological and political challenges

 

In the last few days I came across yet another interesting article [1] showing that prenatal stress is linked with  shorter telomeres. Telomeres are those caps on the end of chromosomes that can fray and shorten with stress and age [3], are a classic biomarker for health. Shorter telomeres are bad news, heralding ill health, and indeed, early death, or in other words early stress might program the body to develop a faster metabolism, which also leads to faster ageing and more physical and mental illness. One recent meta-analysis looking at over 40 papers corroborated how early adversity, such as abuse or neglect, links with shorter telomere length [2].

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Telomeres, mindfulness, illness, dying young and our impulsive, inattentive world

A fascinating new study this week showed that people who have minds that wonder more, who cannot concentrate as much, also have shorter telomeres, a classic biomarker for ageing and cellular death. Telomeres protect the end of chromosomes and are a good predictor of immune functioning, early death and disease [1]. Participants were measured for aspects of psychological distress and well-being. The sample was highly educated and had a narrow range of both chronological age and psychological stress (most were low stress). Those with  a tendency to mind wander and concentrate less on tasks basically had shorter telomeres. Given that so much is suggesting that people’s attention spans are shortening, then this is a worrying finding.

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