A March 2011 study conducted by Elissa Epel, PhD and Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, among others, sought to discover the ways in which stress affects the human body. Specifically, Epel (UCSF) and Blackburn (UCSF) aimed to use previously studied biomarkers to determine how psychological stress and, conversely, psychological well-being, impact human lifespan, healthspan, and susceptibility to chronic illness. The human telomere was used as the biomarker, along with the enzyme that maintains and replenishes telomere lengths, telomerase.
The study is prefaced with the following: “The length of telomeres offers insight into mitotic cell and possibly organismal longevity. Telomere length has now been linked to chronic stress exposure and depression. This raises the question of how might cellular aging be modulated by psychological functioning.”
Seizing on this question, researchers at UC Davis conducted a study to find out how meditation impacts telomeres, and therefore how meditation and increased mindfulness influences human healthspan.