Accelerated DNA Methylation Age: Associations With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Mortality

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Abstract

Objective

Recently developed indices of cellular age based on DNA methylation (DNAm) data, referred to as DNAm age, are being used to study factors that influence the rate of aging and the health correlates of these metrics of the epigenetic clock. This study evaluated associations between trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and accelerated versus decelerated DNAm age among military veterans. We also examined whether accelerated DNAm age predicted mortality over the course of a 6.5-year medical record review period.

Methods

Three hundred thirty-nine genotype-confirmed white, non-Hispanic, middle-aged, trauma-exposed veterans underwent psychiatric assessment and genome-wide DNAm analysis. DNAm age was calculated using a previously validated algorithm. Medical records were available for a subset of 241 veterans and were reviewed approximately 6.5 years after DNA collection and PTSD assessment.

Results

PTSD hyperarousal symptoms were associated with accelerated DNAm age (β = 0.20, p = .009) but trauma exposure and total PTSD severity were not. Accelerated DNAm age was also associated with 13% increased risk for all-cause mortality (hazard ratio = 1.13, 95% confidence interval = 1.01–1.26) during the medical record review period.

Conclusions

Findings of this study replicate the association between PTSD and accelerated DNAm age and suggest that this effect may be specific to the hyperarousal symptom cluster. Results point to the potential utility of DNAm age algorithms for identifying individuals who are aging at an accelerated rate and for determining the factors that influence this process.

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