Does worrying cause wrinkles?

By: John Barrymore

Steven Puetzer/Photodisc/Getty Images

Stop worrying so much. No really, didn't anyone ever tell you worrying could cause wrinkles? Don't be too quick to listen, though -- the jury's still out on this one.

Though the idea of stress causing wrinkles is still the center of much debate, the fact that stress and your appearance go hand-in-hand is undeniable. Let's face it: When you experience a high amount of stress, the reflection staring back at you from the mirror looks a lot older. So is there any science behind your worn-out look, or is it all in your head?


The answer is a little bit of both. A study done in 2004 found a link between people who are constantly worrying and premature aging [source: Stoppler]. We all have chromosomes, the structures in our cells that contain our genes. On the ends of our chromosomes are regions called telomeres. Every time a cell splits during mitosis -- the way cells naturally divide and reproduce -- a little bit of telomere is lost. When there isn't enough telomere left, the cell can't divide anymore, and it dies. [source: MacDonald].

Naturally, the older we get, the more our cells have divided and the shorter our telomeres are. On top of that, in people who have high amounts of stress, telomeres get shorter faster [source: Stoppler]. So while there is evidence that worrying can expedite the shortening of telomeres, and therefore the death of cells, there isn't a clear connection between that and wrinkles.

The most likely reason we develop wrinkles when we worry has to do with the lifestyle that accompanies stress. When people worry, they don't eat well, they exercise less, and they generally don't maintain a healthy sleep schedule, all of which can affect a person's appearance. Keeping these factors in check, even when you're worrying, can help keep you looking healthy. And, of course, worried frowning can accentuate frown lines.

Read on to find out lots more information on worrying and wrinkles.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Best Syndication. "Reducing Stress Reduces Wrinkles." Feb. 9, 2008. (accessed 07/16/2009)
  • MacDonald, Ann. "What are Telomeres?" Wise Geek. (accessed 07/16/2009)
  • Stoppler, Melissa Conrad. "Does stress cause facial wrinkles?" Medicinenet. Apr. 7, 2008. (accessed 07/16/2009)
  • Thosteson, Dr. George. "Does worrying cause wrinkles?" Google News. The Freelance Star. May 27, 1978. (accessed 07/16/2009),4450849