Life expectancy is significantly decreased in bipolar disorder (BD). This is associated with accelerated cellular aging which can be estimated by telomere length (TL). However, specific determinants of shorter TL in BD are under-explored. This study examines whether circadian misalignment (i.e. mismatch between preferred and actual phase of circadian activity rhythms) is associated with shorter TL in BD.
Euthymic individuals with BD (n = 101) undertook 21 consecutive days of actigraphy recording and completed the Composite Scale of Morningness (CSM) to assess phase preference for activities (chronotype). Polymerase chain reaction was used to measure TL in blood. Cluster analysis identified circadian aligned/misaligned subgroups as defined by preferred (CSM score) and actual phases of activity (actigraphically determined onset of active and inactive periods). We tested for any associations between TL and clusters, with adjustments for between-cluster differences in socio-demographic and illness factors.
We identified three clusters: an “Aligned Morning” cluster (n = 31) with preferred and actual timing of activity in the morning, an “Aligned Evening” cluster (n = 37) with preferred and actual timing of activity in the evening and a “Misaligned” cluster (n = 32) with an evening chronotype, but an earlier objective onset of active periods. After adjustment for confounders, we found that TL was significantly associated with circadian misalignment and older age.
Circadian misalignment may partly explain shorter TL in BD and could contribute to accelerated aging in these individuals.