Stress Can Age You – Recovery Is Key

Stressful life events, like the death of a partner, financial difficulties or a health scare can take a toll on well-being and potentially accelerate aging. But new research shows that taking rest and making time for recovery can help reverse the process.  

According to a recent Forbes Innovation Healthcare report, a study published in the journal Cell not only confirms that stress can trigger a rapid increase in biological age, a recovery period after a stressful event can reverse accelerated aging. 

Measuring biological age by capturing how gene expression is turned up or down (epigenetics), researchers found that stressful situations like having an illness, undergoing surgery or even pregnancy, consistently ramped up biological aging.  Once the event concluded, aging was reduced over a period of months or in some cases, days. 

Although exposure to stress was shown to increase biological age, the study also demonstrated that once the stressful event was over, accelerated aging could be partially or fully restored.  In the case of study participants who were recovering from a severe COVID-19 infection – taking an anti-inflammatory (tocilizumab) drug was associated with a faster age-recovery period.  The research findings suggest that anti-inflammatory drug therapy might help reverse accelerated biological age.  More research is needed to determine recovery patterns in long-term aging. 

The Takeaway

After experiencing a stressful life event, it’s critical to take time and action to rest and recover.  Eating a nutritious diet, getting extra sleep, moving more, and paying attention to regular healthcare can all help in the recovery process.   Spending time in nature is also linked with greater resilience to stress, helping to reduce anxiety and calm a racing mind.  Learn more about recovering after stress by following this link to Psychology Today.