Living in a stressful neighborhood is related to aging faster, according to new research using telomeres as a marker for biological aging. Telomeres are part of people’s DNA which give a measure of ‘miles on the clock,” or biological age. The study, published today in PLoS One, combined population health, and molecular biology research and found that people who reported problems in their local areas such as assaults, burglaries, litter; vandalism had shorter telomere lengths, and the effect was more marked among women.
Telomere length is a biological marker of age that gets shorter over time. In this research, the shorter telomere length existed even after the analysis had taken into account other factors known to with telomere lengths, such as age, sex, social class, smoking, diet, weight, depression, and fitness.
The reported problems in people’s environment also included muggings; smells and fumes, and disturbances by children or youngsters. The study is a result of cross-disciplinary collaboration between Social scientist Prof. Anne Ellaway from the University of Glasgow MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit and Geroscientist Prof Paul Shiels at the University’s Institute of Cancer Sciences.
Chronic neighborhood stressors
The research showed that chronic neighborhood stressors with accelerated aging and the effect was more marked on women. They think this may because women spend more time in the local neighborhood; because men and women process stressful environments differently; in ways which might lead to different physiological responses. Therefore, improving run-down areas may combat this acceleration in aging.”
They already know there is a substantial gap in health and longevity between more affluent and more deprived areas, so more knowledge of the determinants of this health divide is important; as people’s local residential environments may affect their health; as our research demonstrates.
The local environments
“However, the positive news is that neighborhood environments are potentially modifiable; future efforts directed towards improving disadvantaged local environments may use to lessen the effects how fast people age. The paper, “More miles on the clock: Neighbourhood stressors are with telomere length in a longitudinal study.
In this study, perceived neighborhood stressors are with biological aging as measured by telomere length, even after taking known correlates such as chronological age, SES/social class, mental health (depression), health behaviors (smoking, diet, physical activity) and BMI into account.
The study is novel and adds to the literature; as although there is a growing body of research on the influence of characteristics of the neighborhood environment and aging; most studies to date which have explored perceptions of the local neighborhood with telomere length; have cross-sectional and few have investigated sex differences in these.