Epigenetic aging and perceived psychological stress in old age

Valentin Max Vetter, Johanna Drewelies, Yasmine Sommerer, Christian Humberto Kalies, Vera Regitz-Zagrosek, Lars Bertram, Denis Gerstorf, Ilja Demuth*

*Corresponding author for this work
5 Citations (Scopus)


Adverse effects of psychological stress on physical and mental health, especially in older age, are well documented. How perceived stress relates to the epigenetic clock measure, DNA methylation age acceleration (DNAmAA), is less well understood and existing studies reported inconsistent results. DNAmAA was estimated from five epigenetic clocks (7-CpG, Horvath’s, Hannum’s, PhenoAge and GrimAge DNAmAA). Cohen’s Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) was used as marker of psychological stress. We analyzed data from 1,100 Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II) participants assessed as part of the GendAge study (mean age = 75.6 years, SD = 3.8 years, 52.1% women). In a first step, we replicated well-established associations of perceived stress with morbidity, frailty, and symptoms of depression in the BASE-II cohort studied here. In a second step, we did not find any statistically significant association of perceived stress with any of the five epigenetic clocks in multiple linear regression analyses that adjusted for covariates. Although the body of literature suggests an association between higher DNAmAA and stress or trauma during early childhood, the current study found no evidence for an association of perception of stress with DNAmAA in older people. We discuss possible reasons for the lack of associations and highlight directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number410
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12.2022

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