Is There an Association between Leukocyte Telomere Length & Hostility in US Army Service Members?

Research Paper Title

Association between leukocyte telomere length and hostility in US army service members.


Hostility is a common form of emotionally charged anger which can lead to maladaptive and unhealthy behaviours.

Significant association between shortened telomeres and greater levels of hostility has been observed in civilian populations, but has not yet been comprehensively studied in military populations.


The study investigates the relationship between hostility, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and leukocyte telomere length (LTL) in a sample of United States Army Special Operations personnel (n = 474) who deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan as part of combat operations.

Hostility was measured with five items from the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). PTSD was determined using the PTSD Checklist (PCL) total score.

The LTL was assessed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction methods and regression analyses were conducted to determine the association of hostility and telomere length.


PTSD subjects reported higher hostility scores compared with those without PTSD. Among the participants with PTSD, those with medium or high level of hostility had shorter LTL than those with low level hostility (P < 0.01).

Stepwise regression indicated that hostility level and age, but not gender and PTSD, were negatively correlated with LTL. Univariate regression showed that total hostility score was negatively associated with LTL (CI= -0.06 to -0.002, Beta= -0.095, p < 0.039) as well as a significant correlation between LTL and hostility impulses (HI) (CI= -0.108 to -0.009, Beta= -0.106, p < 0.021) and hostility controlling (HC) (CI= -0.071 to -0.002, Beta= -0.095, p < 0.004).

Multiple regression analyses revealed that, while HC has no significant association with LTL, HI was still negatively correlated with LTL (p = 0.021). The data indicates that LTL is associated with HI levels.


Prevention and treatment efforts designed to reduce hostility may help mitigate risk for LTL shortening, a process of cellular aging, and thus slow accelerated aged-related health outcomes.


Zhang, L., Hu, X.Z., Russell, D.W., Benedek, D.M., Fullerton, C.S., Naifeh, J.A., Li, X., Chen, Z., Wu, H., Ng, T.H.H., Aliaga, P., Kao, T.C., Yu, T., Dohl, J., Wynn, G. & Ursano, R.J. (2019) Association between leukocyte telomere length and hostility in US army service members. Neuroscience Letters. 706, pp.24-29. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2019.04.020. [Epub ahead of print].


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