One advantage of having younger friends used to be that they were more cheerful and optimistic than I was.  It seemed then that the decade between us had insulated them from all the bad news I heard, both in the media and from my older friends.  But now that 20 years or so have passed, these friends just about caught up to me.

 

When I said I planned to write about this topic, one of my friends — perky still, though more pessimistic than she used to be — asked me to change her name. She had also told me (whenever I asked) that she doesn’t read what I write because she’s too stressed, so she’ll never know whether or not I’ve changed her name. I’ll honor her wishes anyway and call her Susie. Besides, she might have… More…

 

I celebrated my 39th birthday the other day, and, for the first time ever, I legitimately felt a year older. Times have been hard lately. I discovered two totally new emotions — hopelessness and panic. I realized my plans for the future now turn less on ideals and more on necessity. Wrinkles and gray hair have made their first appearance.

It all felt like too much, and I began to wonder how much of a toll this mental state has taken on my physical health. People have long suspected that chronic psychological stress impairs health and accelerates the aging process, but the mechanism behind this link had long been unknown.

The connection has become much clearer in recent years as researchers have ascertained that stress impairs telomeres — the DNA-protein complexes that cap the ends of chromosomes, protect… More…