- Researchers from King's College London analysed data from 110,780 people
- They looked for 168 different blood markers as well as their mental health history
- The scientists found those suffering with mental illness have accelerated ageing
By HANNAH MCDONALD FOR MAILONLINE
Having a mental illness could be taking an even greater physical toll on your body than previously thought.
Scientists say people with conditions like bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety could be biologically up to two years older than their actual chronological age.
Experts from King's College London found the link after examining blood samples from over 110,000 Brits.They were looking for specific markers related to ageing and linked these to history of mental illnesses.
Lead author Dr Julian Mutz, a neuroscientist, claimed the findings may partly explain why people with mental health problems tend to have shorter lifespans and more age-related diseases than the general population.
Mental illness makes you age quicker, according to scientists, as it's discovered that people with bipolar have bodies two years older than they actually are (stock image)
Experts analysed blood samples taken from 110,780 people and looked for 168 markers called metabolites, substances in the body related to the metabolism.
Studies have linked changes in the body's metabolites to the ageing process, with certain types found to decrease as people get older.
The researchers then linked this with health information linking to the participants' mental illness diagnosis.
Dr Mutz said: 'It is now possible to predict people's age from blood metabolites.
'We found that, on average, those who had a lifetime history of mental illness had a metabolite profile which implied they were older than their actual age.'
Detailed results showed people with bipolar disorder had blood markers indicating they were around two years older than their actual chronological age.
And Dr Mutz told The Telegraph people with depression had bodies around one year older, while for those with anxiety the increase was 0.7 years.
It follows on from a 2019 Danish study which found men and women with mental health conditions had shorter life expectancies than those that didn't, losing out 10 and seven years, respectively.
And the King's College London team responsible for the most recent findings, also discovered in 2022 that people with bipolar, depression and anxiety have an increased risk of frailty — a medical syndrome strongly associated with mortality risk.
Experts have suggested the link with these conditions and death is because mental illness negatively impacts lifestyle, biological and psycho-social factors, which accelerate ageing.
These factors can include being physically inactive, smoking, chronic inflammation and isolation.
And the new study backs up the theory that that mental health sufferers' bodies do age quicker.
Dr Mutz said: 'Our findings indicate that the bodies of people with mental health problems tend to be older than would be expected for an individual their age.
'This may not explain all the difference in health and life expectancy between those with mental health problems and the general population.
'But it does mean that accelerated biological ageing may be an important factor.'
The researcher claimed that the markers used in the study to to track ageing could be used to improve health monitoring for people with mental health conditions.
Dr Sara Poletti, an expert in clinical psychobiology from the San Raffaele University Hospital in Milan, said the study it could explain why metabolic and age-related diseases are more common in patients with mental illness.
'Understanding the mechanisms underlying accelerated biological ageing could be crucial for the development of prevention and tailored treatments to address the growing difficulty of an integrated management of these disorders,' she said.
The project was presented at the European Congress of Psychiatry in Paris.