What You Fear May Shorten Your Life

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.

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