The authors report they have no financial relationships within the past 3 years to disclose.
Investigation of telomere length and psychological stress in rape victims†
Article first published online: 7 NOV 2011
© 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Depression and Anxiety
Volume 28, Issue 12, pages 1081–1085, December 2011
How to Cite
Malan, S., Hemmings, S., Kidd, M., Martin, L. and Seedat, S. (2011), Investigation of telomere length and psychological stress in rape victims. Depress. Anxiety, 28: 1081–1085. doi: 10.1002/da.20903
- Issue published online: 30 NOV 2011
- Article first published online: 7 NOV 2011
- Manuscript Accepted: 24 AUG 2011
- Manuscript Revised: 15 AUG 2011
- Manuscript Received: 4 MAY 2011
- telomere length;
- psychological stress;
- major depressive disorder;
- posttraumatic stress disorder
Background: Women are at an increased risk of depression and other mental health problems following rape. Various etiological factors for depression, including predisposing genetic factors, have been identified. Telomeres are repetitive nucleoprotein structures located at chromosomal ends that protect them from premature degradation. Telomeres reduce in length with each cell division, resulting in cellular senescence and apoptosis. Methods: Relative quantification of telomeric repeats using qPCR was performed to investigate whether shorter relative leukocyte telomere length (LTL) in a cohort of 64 rape victims was associated with resilience, the development of rape trauma-related major depressive disorder (MDD) or the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after 3 months. Results: Out of the 64 participants, 23 participants were diagnosed with MDD at baseline and 31 after 3 months. Nine participants were diagnosed with PTSD (MDD and PTSD specifically related to the trauma). No significant associations were observed between relative LTL and resilience or the development of MDD at either baseline or after 3 months in this cohort. However, a marginally significant association was evident between relative LTL and PTSD status. Conclusions: The significant association between relative LTL and PTSD suggests that shorter relative LTL might have acted as a predisposing factor in the development of PTSD after a severely traumatic event. The results of this study indicate that telomere shortening may be an important marker of PTSD risk, with implications for early intervention and timely treatment, and as such warrant replication in a larger cohort. Depression and Anxiety, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.