Having certain health conditions in adolescence may be linked with faster aging in adulthood, study says

Smoking during adolescence is one of a few health concerns a new study has linked with accelerated aging in adulthood.

(CNN)If you were obese, smoked or had a psychological disorder in adolescence, you might age faster than your peers as an adult, new research has found.

Adolescents ages 11 to 15 who were obese, smoked cigarettes daily, or had a psychological disorder, such as anxiety, depression or ADHD, biologically aged nearly three months faster every year than their peers, according to a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The research used data from 910 people who were part of the Dunedin Study, a long-term investigation that tracked the health and behavior of participants born between April 1972 and March 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand, following them from age 3 until they were 45 years old.
    By age 45, the new study found that participants who had two or more of those three general health concerns -- smoking, obesity or psychological disorders -- as adolescents walked 11.2 centimeters per second slower, had an older brain age by two and a half years, and had an older facial age by nearly four years than those who didn't.
      The factors researchers used to measure aging included body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, blood tests, hormones for appetite regulation and fat storage, blood pressure, cholesterol, tooth decay, periodontal disease, cardiorespiratory fitness, and brain MRIs.
      The study also examined a fourth health concern, with very different results. Participants who had asthma during adolescence -- most of whom were treated -- weren't biologically older at age 45, compared with those without asthma. These findings remained constant even when the authors considered possible confounders such as socioeconomic disadvantages or adverse childhood experiences.
      "This adds to that past research by expanding it to these four conditions, of which we only found that three were associated with accelerated aging," said the study's first author Kyle Bourassa, a clinical psychology researcher and advanced research fellow at the Durham VA Health Care System. This study "shows that these have independent effects, so each of them is exerting their own association with later aging."
        The researchers hoped that identifying health conditions in adolescence that are associated with faster aging could help medical professionals slow aging and prevent poor health later in life, according to the study.

        Factors behind faster aging

        There are several reasons why smoking, psychological disorders and obesity could accelerate aging, the authors said: All can impact factors linked with accelerated aging, such as greater inflammation and oxidative stress, an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules from environmental sources like cigarette smoke or pesticides, which can damage the body's cells.