US researchers believe anxiety could accelerate ageing in older women by as much as six years.
The Boston-based researchers found women who experience phobic anxiety, a common form of the condition, had increased cellular damage that speeds up ageing, the UK's Daily Mail reported.
People with phobic anxiety experience unreasonable fear about situations such as crowds, heights and going outside.
The researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School found women who experience phobic anxiety had shorter telomeres (the DNA on the end of chromosomes that protects them from deterioration) than people without anxiety.
Shorter telomeres indicate cellular ageing and have been linked with heart disease, dementia and cancer.
The researchers analysed blood samples from more than 5000 women aged between 42 and 69. They also got them to answer a questionnaire about phobic symptoms.
The results showed women who were more phobic had shorter telomere lengths that were the equivalent of someone six years older.
"This study is notable for showing a connection between a common form of psychological stress; phobic anxiety; and a plausible mechanism for premature aging," study author Dr Olivia Okereke said.
"However, this type of study design cannot prove cause-and-effect or which problem came first; the anxiety or shorter telomeres."
The study was published in PLoS One online journal.