Many factors detrimental to healthy aging have been proposed including depression, stress, cognitive decline, and telomere shortening. Of specific interest are the genetic factors that may contribute to these factors and subsequently lead to accelerated telomere shortening and aging, namely the Bcl1, 5-HT, DRD2, and ApoE polymorphisms. We sought to: 1) further clarify the role of depression, stress tolerance, and cognitive decline in aging by examining the effect of associated polymorphisms (Bcl1, 5-HT, DRD2, and ApoE) on telomere length in two samples of older adults and 2) determine the difference in absolute telomere length between the two groups. We examined two samples of older adults: participants in a competitive, athletic event (N=220; mean age=66.8 years) and a sample of community-dwelling older adults (N=208; mean age=69.1 years). Participants completed a questionnaire with demographic information and provided a saliva sample. The Bcl1, 5-HT, DRD2, and ApoE polymorphisms were determined using PCR and Taqman assays. Telomere length was determined using qPCR analysis. The community-dwelling group had significantly shorter telomere lengths than the athletic group (t=-4.82, p< .0001). Additionally, for males in the athletic group, the L/S genotype of the 5-HT polymorphism was associated with longer telomere length. In males in the community-dwelling group, the GC genotype of the Bcl1 polymorphism was associated with shorter telomere length. In females in the athletic group, the GC and GG genotypes of the Bcl1 polymorphism were associated with shorter telomere length with the opposite being true for females in the community-dwelling group: the GC genotype of the Bcl1 polymorphism predicted longer telomere length. Exercising nearly everyday and the length of exercise were associated with telomere length in both groups. Our results indicate that competitive athletic activity in older age is associated with increased telomere length, longer periods of exercise at one time may contribute to longer telomere length, and the Bcl1 and 5-HT polymorphisms are associated with telomere length in older adults.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Psychology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Telomeres, healthy aging, Bcl1 polymorphism, 5-HT polymorphism, exercise

Included in

Psychology Commons