The role that stress plays in depression

Stress plays an important role in depression, new research has suggested. Published in Biological Psychiatry, the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry, the study looked at the relationships between telomere lengths - the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that act as indicators of aging - and the two conditions.

Investigators considered these lengths in patients with major depressive disorder and those deemed healthy, while also measuring stress from both biological and subjective perspectives.

The former was calculated through cortisol lengths - the main stress hormone - while the latter was carried out through a questionnaire.

Human stress response is controlled by the HPA axis and lead author of the report Dr Mikael Wikgren noted: "Our findings suggest that stress plays an important role in depression, as telomere length was especially shortened in patients exhibiting an overly sensitive HPA axis."

He added the HPA axis response has been linked to chronic stress and poor ability to cope with it.

Dr Jacquie Hetherton, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Whilst some stress can be experienced positively in that it can enhance performance, negative stress is where an individual experiences demands that are in excess of their resources or perceived resources.

"This can lead to feelings of being unable to cope, which is compounded by the reduced problem solving abilities that often accompany excessive stress.

"Feelings of not being able to cope can result in depression where it manifests as negative beliefs about oneself, others and the future. Once depressed, an individuals ability to cope with stressors is reduced even further."