“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.” – Hans Selye, 1907-1982 (‘the father of the field of stress research’).
Would you be surprised to hear that stress can make us age faster? Probably not. Science is not blind to this phenomenon either, as Selye noted in his book The Stress of Life already in the 1950’s. Multiple studies have already documented the effects of stress, in particular adverse experiences in early life and chronic forms of stress, on health problems in later life, from weight-gain to an increased risk of heart disease, and to cancer and premature mortality. Although the word ‘aging’ is visualized with old age and elderly people, ‘biological aging’ is a life-long process that begins almost at conception. Research suggests that the effects of stress on biological aging can be observed already at birth. Importantly, the rate of aging is not universal, and stress in its various forms is a key factor in determining the speed of aging.
Research in the lab leverages behavioral and molecular methods, across multiple and dynamic levels of analysis, to measure the aging process as it begins in early-life and to test how this process is affected by environmental stress exposures. Our research aim to inform new targets for intervention studies to reverse the damaging effects of stress on our body and mind.
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” – George Burns, 1896-1996 (Who continued to work until shortly before his death, at the age of 100).