Clinical Edge

Summaries of Must-Read Clinical Literature, Guidelines, and FDA Actions

Stress Associated with More Rapid Brain Aging

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry; ePub 2016 Dec 28; Johnson, et al

A recent study adds to the growing literature associating exposure to stressful events in later life with more rapid pathological brain aging, specifically white matter hyperintensity volumes. Researchers evaluated a sample that included 130 depressed and 110 never-depressed older adults aged ≥60 years enrolled in a longitudinal study at an academic medical center. Participants completed clinical assessments, assessment of stressful event exposure and perceived stress, and magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and after 2 years. They found:

  • There were no statistically significant relationships observed between cross-sectional baseline stress measures and either baseline hyperintensity volume or 2-year change in hyperintensity volume.
  • However, after controlling for demographic variables and baseline measures, change in stressor exposure was associated with change in hyperintensity volumes.
  • In this analysis, increased stressor exposure was associated with greater increases in white matter hyperintensity volume, while reductions in stressor exposure were associated with less increase in hyperintensity volume.


Johnson AD, McQuoid DR, Steffens DC, Payne ME, Beyer JL, Taylor WD. Effects of stressful life events on cerebral white matter hyperintensity progression. [Published online ahead of print December 28, 2016]. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. doi:10.1002/gps.4644.