November 08, 2006
Stress Increases Risk Of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

If you live a high stress life you are probably setting yourself up to get chronic fatigue syndrome decades later.

Stress can have repercussions later in life in the form of chronic fatigue, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet. People who considered their lives to be stressful at the start of the 1970s today suffer more often from chronic fatigue than others. The study was carried out with data from the Swedish Twin registry.

Chronic fatigue is a condition characterised by long-lasting and abnormal exhaustion, often accompanied by concentration impairment, mood swings, insomnia and pain in the muscles and joints. Despite extensive research, no root causes have been identified; all that scientists know so far is that it seems to appear across all ages and social classes in many different countries.

A research group from Karolinska Institutet has now been able to show that one of the direct causes of chronic fatigue is stress. Using the results from a health survey conducted amongst almost 20,000 twins from the Swedish Twin registry in 1973 and of a repeat survey of the same population in 1998 (which contained questions about chronic fatigue), the researchers found that the group who claimed to have stressful lives 25 years previously ran a 65 per cent greater chance of developing chronic fatigue than those who did not.

The scientists also noted a correlation between emotional instability and chronic fatigue. By limiting the analysis to identical twins, the researchers were able to dismiss any causal relationship. Instead, the correlation should be interpreted as there being genetic factors that are important for both emotional instability and chronic fatigue. Using the same method, the team has been able to show that stress does actually have a direct impact on the risk of developing chronic fatigue.

Chronic stress also accelerates aging as measured by chromosome telomere length. Telomeres get shorter with age and shorten more rapidly in people who suffer from chronic stress.

Some people feel more alive and productive under pressure. But if you feel chronically under pressure you are setting yourself up to age more rapidly and get debilitating illnesses.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 November 08 09:44 PM  Aging Studies

rtove said at November 9, 2006 10:03 AM:

stress may be bad for you but the telomere study is poor. one good thing about this study is that all the data points are provided in graphs and you can reconstruct the (small) data set, more or less. if I remember correctly (and I may not), the result is outlier driven; an inverse relationship seems to hold for the two middle quartiles; women in the high stress quartile were almost obese, on average, vs. average weight for the rest of the sample; the initial stress measure of care for a chronically ill child didn't produce a relationship, and it was only reported stress in the month prior to a recent interview, at best a weak proxy for anxiety over the preceding 10 or 20 years, where a good relationship seemed to result; the effects of stress were too large to be believed, and I think were actually larger in the paper than the press release suggests; the researchers left every indication of bias in favor of an initial hypothesis about stress and aging and probably wanted to play up their questionable results to get more funding.

a simple study comparing unmedicated anxiety patients or self reported high anxiety people to a control group would have been more interesting. why use chronically ill child as a proxy for anxiety? this was a poor idea which suggests the general quality of thinking reflected in the paper.

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