What You Fear May Shorten Your Life

by Chris Curley on July 13, 2012

As tough as it may be, getting over the things you fear may help you live longer, a new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston suggests.

Middle-aged women who suffer from high levels of “phobic anxiety” — which includes common phobias like the fear of heights or crowds — have shorter telomeres (a genetic sign of aging) than those who have little phobic anxiety, the study shows. In a group of women ages 42 to 69, those who were highly phobic had telomere lengths similar to those of non-phobic women who were six years older, the researchers say.

Though the study did not prove cause-and-effect, study author Olivia Okereke, M.D., says the results indicate “a plausible mechanism for premature aging.”

Previous studies have shorter telomere length to higher risk of chronic disease and lower well-being.

The study appears online in the journal PLoS ONE.

(Photo © Swift Benjamin via Flickr)