US Veterans: Risk Factors for Biological Ageing

Research Paper Title

Hostility and telomere shortening among U.S. military veterans: Results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study.


Chronic disorders of ageing are critical concerns for the US veteran population, which is, on average, two decades older than the non-veteran population. Characterisation of risk factors that may accelerate biological ageing is important in identifying targets for prevention and intervention.


In the current study, the researchers analysed data from a contemporary, and nationally representative sample of US veterans to evaluate the relationship between a broad range of sociodemographic, military, and clinical variables, and peripheral telomere length, which is an indicator of biological age and linked to risk for ageing-related disorders and mortality. Data from 468 US military veterans who participated in the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study were analysed. Telomere length was assessed from cells isolated from saliva using quantitative polymerase chain reaction methods. A multivariable binary logistic regression analysis was conducted to evaluate the relations between hostility and telomere length, while controlling for sociodemographic, military, and clinical variables.


Greater scores on a measure of hostility were independently associated with telomere shortening, even after adjustment for a broad range of other variables (odds ratio [OR]=1.58, 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.15-2.18). Secondary analyses revealed that this association was driven by difficulties controlling anger (OR=1.72, 95%CI=1.14-2.61), which reflect the external manifestation of hostility, rather than aggressive urges or impulses. Hostility, particularly difficulties controlling anger, is associated with peripheral telomere shortening in US military veterans.


Prevention and treatment efforts designed to reduce hostility may help mitigate risk for accelerated cellular ageing in this growing segment of the US.


Watkins, L.E., Harpaz-Rotem, I., Sippel, L.M., Krystal, J.H., Southwick, S.M.  & Pietrzak, R.H. (2016) Hostility and Telomere Shortening among U.S. Military Veterans: Results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 74, pp.251-257. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.09.006. [Epub ahead of print].


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