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Depression Makes Us Biologically Older, But There are Ways to Cope

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Depression Makes Us “Biologically Older”

Recent front-page new stories paint a dim picture about the realities of depression.  One article, recently published in the BBC News, says that depression can actually make us biologically older.  Lab tests in adults with severe depression showed that their cells literally looked biologically older compared to adults without severe depression, and that included bouts of severe depression that occurred in the past that were no longer present.  These stunning results highlight the seriousness of mental illnesses like depression and their long-term effects, although they are still considered “taboo” topics by some and not “real illness”.  Other research has also uncovered that depression is linked with obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, which may be largely related to lifestyle choices that those with severe depression use to cope.  Nevertheless, the most recent study of severely depressed individuals’ cells literally shows measurable differences in the measure of cell aging called Telomere length regardless of lifestyle choices such as smoking or heavy drinking.

Exercise Can Combat Depression for Youth

Before embarking on a lifetime of dealing with depression, other researchers have attempted to stem the problem at a young age.  For example, another recent front page story details the use of motivational exercise regimens to combat youth depression.  In a small pilot study of 18-24 year olds, researchers at an Australian University found that youth with major depressive disorder experienced significant declines in depression after a 12-week period of intense physical activity with a motivational component.  In fact, results showed a decline in depression severity of 63% and 83% of participants were considered no longer depressed at the end of the 12 weeks.  Despite the results of the study, there remains much questioning about exercise and its ability to combat depression on a profound level, especially since those with severe depression likely do not want to get out of bed, let alone engage in an exercise routine.

Depression Second Leading Cause in World of Creating Years Lost to Disability

Depression is a worldwide problem, with data suggesting that it is the second leading cause of years lost to disability, falling behind lower respiratory infections.  The U.S. does not lead the world in depression rates, either–if you think we’ve got it bad you should take a look at a map recently published in PLOS Medicine, where researchers estimated rates of depression across the world.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Afghanistan was ranked highest in depression rates.  Regardless of where you are in the world, depression is a serious illness that may finally get the attention that it needs in order to solve this life-altering problem.