Skip to main content

Social Determinants of Accelerated Aging

Do you:


1) Make less than £25,000 ($40,926) a year?



2) Rent your home?



3) Fail to eat your vegetables?



If you answered yes to all three questions, your telomeres may be shortening at a faster rate than those who answered no (read: are less deprived).



[Note: Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes that get depleted as we age].



At least that’s what a new study coming out of the Glasgow Center for Population Health is reporting. The Public Library of Science recently published the study’s findings, which established that there may be a scientific association between socioeconomic status and aging.



The Glasgow study involved measuring telomere length in blood samples of 382 Glaswegians.



For people with annual incomes lower than £25,000, telomeres showed an average 7.7% decrease in length over a 10-year period. Those with incomes greater than £25,000 showed only a 0.6% shortening in their telomeres in comparison.



Moreover, poor diet was found to exacerbate telomere shortening. Dietary intake was based on participants’ responses on a lifestyle questionnaire. Self-reported frequency of consumption in 21 food categories was used to determine a diet score. Those with poor diets showed a 7.7% decrease in telomere length, compared to 1.8% in those with better diets.



In addition, those renting accommodations compared to those who owned their homes had a telomere length reduction of 8.7% compared to 2.2%, respectively.

This study is interesting because it offers scientific evidence for health inequities while proposing that a combination of factors affecting an individual's livelihood may indeed determine how quickly he or she ages.

Results from this study and those that may follow would potentially be useful in informing public health initiatives that address health disparities among poor older adults.


As a caveat, although these results could be useful at a population level, they are not applicable in determining individual life expectancy.


By: Julie N. Thai [GeriPal International Correspondent]

Comments

ken covinsky said…
Fascinating study. Perhaps it provides a novel mechanism for a fundamental observation about health that has been known for several centuries: Persons who have poor socioeconomic status (SES) have much worse health outcomes than persons with good (SES).

The relationship between SES and health is so strong that in some studies SES better predicts death and disabity better than the presence of disease.

This observation is of more than theoretical interest. The failure to account for SES causes many research designs to give us the wrong answer.

For example, many believe failure to account for SES is the reason why so many women were put on estrogen replacement therapy, even though it was later shown to be harmful.

Early studies showed women who took estrogen suffered less heart disease than women who did not take estrogen. It was assumed that this was because estrogen therapy was protective.

But, later randomized studies showed just the opposite. Estrogen actually increased rates of heart disease. One reason estrogen may have appeared beneficial in early studies was because women who took estrogen had better SES.

One way to look at this: The protective effect of high SES is so powerful that richer persons may still do better than poorer persons even when the richer persons are given a harmful treatment.

The bottom line--all observational research studies should measure SES and control for it. For example, if we are looking at whether persons who take vitamin e have a lower risk of cancer than those who don't take vitamin e, we should make sure any difference in SES between vitamin users and nonusers is accouted for. If we are looking at whether biologic measures, such as measures of inflammation are associated with heart disease, we should make sure SES is not associated with the biologic measure.

The need to account for SES as a determinant of health is so clear that one would surely think that most medical studies do so. But in fact, very very few studies account for SES.
Anonymous said…
test comment

Popular posts from this blog

Geroscience and it's Impact on the Human Healthspan: A podcast with John Newman

Ok, I'll admit it. When I hear the phrase "the biology of aging" I'm mentally preparing myself to only understand about 5% of what the presenter is going to talk about (that's on a good day).  While I have words like telomeres, sirtuins, or senolytics memorized for the boards, I've never been able to see how this applies to my clinical practice as it always feels so theoretical.  Well, today that changed for me thanks to our podcast interview with John Newman, a "geroscientist" and geriatrician here at UCSF and at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.

In this podcast, John breaks down what geroscience is and how it impacts how we think about many age-related conditions and diseases. For example, rather than thinking about multimorbidity as the random collection of multiple different clinical problems, we can see it as an expression of the fundamental mechanisms of aging. This means, that rather than treating individuals diseases, targeting …

The Dangers of Fleet Enemas

The dangers of oral sodium phosphate preparations are fairly well known in the medical community. In 2006 the FDA issued it’s first warning that patients taking oral sodium phosphate preparations are at risk for potential for acute kidney injury. Two years later, over-the-counter preparations of these drugs were voluntarily withdrawn by the manufacturers.  Those agents still available by prescription were given black box warnings mainly due to acute phosphate nephropathy that can result in renal failure, especially in older adults. Despite all this talk of oral preparations, little was mentioned about a sodium phosphate preparation that is still available over-the-counter – the Fleet enema.

Why Oral Sodium Phosphate Preparations Are Dangerous 

Before we go into the risks of Fleet enemas, lets spend just a couple sentences on why oral sodium phosphate preparations carry significant risks. First, oral sodium phosphate preparations can cause significant fluid shifts within the colon …

Becoming an Advocate for Older Adults: A Podcast with Joanne Lynn

Geriatricians in the 2030s may be able to prescribe very costly medications for older Medicare beneficiaries who cannot get supper. Most older Americans who live with disabilities will not be able to pay for adequate housing, food, medicine, and personal care. All who serve older adults must shoulder the responsibility to help avert this oncoming suffering and social disruption. The window of opportunity for effective change is already narrow; procrastinating for a decade will be too late.
These are the words of Joanne Lynn, a geriatrician and palliative care physician, who leads Altarum’s work on eldercare. She wrote a recent JAGS editorial titled The “Fierce Urgency of Now”: Geriatrics Professionals Speaking up for Older Adult Care in the United States” which is very much a call to action for those who care for older adults.  We talk with Joanne about this article and some meaningful things clinicians in both geriatrics and palliative care can do to be advocates for a growing popu…