Mental Illness May Speed Up the Aging Process, Study Finds


Mental illness is a notorious thief, stealing joy, peace, and ease from the estimated one billion people worldwide who suffer from it. Now, it appears that mental illness steals still more too: years and youth. According to new research presented Mar. 26 at the European Congress of Psychiatry in Paris, people suffering from a range of psychiatric conditions—particularly depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety—carry markers in their blood indicating that their biological age is older than their chronological age.

The findings, presented by Julian Mutz, a post-doctoral research associate at King’s College London, were based on a robust survey he and his colleagues conducted of more than 110,000 blood samples maintained at the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database containing blood and genetic samples from more than half a million U.K. residents. The samples are cross-indexed with the donors’ age, gender, and medical history, providing a detailed portrait of the overall health of a representative sampling of the U.K. population.

Mutz and his colleagues used the biobank data to study blood for 168 different metabolites, including cholesterol, fatty acids, inflammatory markers, and more, all of which can indicate a person’s biological age. “Some of those markers increase with age,” says Mutz, “some decrease, and some have a nonlinear relationship, so they would increase for a number of years [and then decrease].”

Among the key metabolites Mutz and his colleagues studied were creatine, an amino acid involved in muscular health, which tends to decrease with age; fatty acids, which also decrease with age; and the inflammatory markers known as c-reactive proteins, which can be indicators of declining heart health. The researchers then compared the blood analyses to the records of the patients’ age, as well as to baseline questionnaires they answered between 2006 and 2010 regarding their mental health and whether they’d ever been diagnosed with any clinical condition. The data in the biobank is also linked to primary care records and hospital inpatient records.

The results of all of this analysis were striking. On the whole, Mutz found, patients with bipolar disorder had a biological age that was two years greater than their calendar age. For depression, it was one year older, and for anxiety conditions it was 0.7 years older. “This helps explain why, at least on average, people with mental health disorders tend to have a higher prevalence of age-related diseases,” such as heart disease and diabetes, Mutz says.

Multiple large population studies, including one of nearly 7.4 million people that appeared in the Lancet in 2019, have found that men who suffer from mental health conditions have a 10-year shorter life expectancy than the general population; for women, it’s seven years shorter.

“The estimates differ a little bit depending on the diagnosis,” Mutz says. “For example, people with schizophrenia or a psychosis have a greater difference in terms of life expectancy than people with depression or anxiety.”

Going forward, Mutz hopes that his findings can help researchers gauge the effectiveness of mental-health interventions, using ongoing blood studies of people receiving psychiatric therapy to help determine how effective the treatment is.

“I could imagine a randomized control trial where we look at, say, exercise, which is very helpful for physical health and mental disorders,” says Mutz, “and see if it improves overall biological aging. Keeping track of these molecular aging clocks can be useful in providing care.”

Important Notice: This article was also published at by Jeffrey Kluger where all credits are due.


The watching, interacting, and participation of any kind with anything on this page does not constitute or initiate a doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Farrah™. None of the statements here have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The products of Dr. Farrah™ are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information being provided should only be considered for education and entertainment purposes only. If you feel that anything you see or hear may be of value to you on this page or on any other medium of any kind associated with, showing, or quoting anything relating to Dr. Farrah™ in any way at any time, you are encouraged to and agree to consult with a licensed healthcare professional in your area to discuss it. If you feel that you’re having a healthcare emergency, seek medical attention immediately. The views expressed here are simply either the views and opinions of Dr. Farrah™ or others appearing and are protected under the first amendment.

Dr. Farrah™ is a highly experienced Licensed Medical Doctor certified in evidence-based clinical nutrition, not some enthusiast, formulator, or medium promoting the wild and unrestrained use of nutrition products for health issues without clinical experience and scientific evidence of therapeutic benefit. Dr. Farrah™ has personally and keenly studied everything she recommends, and more importantly, she’s closely observed the reactions and results in a clinical setting countless times over the course of her career involving the treatment of over 150,000 patients.

Dr. Farrah™ promotes evidence-based natural approaches to health, which means integrating her individual scientific and clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. By individual clinical expertise, I refer to the proficiency and judgment that individual clinicians acquire through clinical experience and clinical practice.

Dr. Farrah™ does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of any multimedia content provided. Dr. Farrah™ does not warrant the performance, effectiveness, or applicability of any sites listed, linked, or referenced to, in, or by any multimedia content.

To be clear, the multimedia content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen in any website, video, image, or media of any kind. Dr. Farrah™ hereby disclaims any and all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, punitive, special, incidental, or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the content, which is provided as is, and without warranties.