TitleIs socioeconomic status associated with biological aging as measured by telomere length?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsRobertson, T, Batty, GD, Der, G, Fenton, C, Shiels, PG, Benzeval, M
JournalEpidemiol Rev
Date Published2013
KeywordsAging, Biomarkers, Educational Status, Genetic Markers, Humans, Social Class, Telomere

It has been hypothesized that one way in which lower socioeconomic status (SES) affects health is by increasing the rate of biological aging. A widely used marker of biological aging is telomere length. Telomeres are structures at the ends of chromosomes that erode with increasing cell proliferation and genetic damage. We aimed to identify, through systematic review and meta-analysis, whether lower SES (greater deprivation) is associated with shorter telomeres. Thirty-one articles, including 29 study populations, were identified. We conducted 3 meta-analyses to compare the telomere lengths of persons of high and low SES with regard to contemporaneous SES (12 study populations from 10 individual articles), education (15 study populations from 14 articles), and childhood SES (2 study populations from 2 articles). For education, there was a significant difference in telomere length between persons of high and low SES in a random-effects model (standardized mean difference (SMD) = 0.060, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.002, 0.118; P = 0.042), although a range of sensitivity analyses weakened this association. There was no evidence for an association between telomere length and contemporaneous SES (SMD = 0.104, 95% CI: -0.027, 0.236; P = 0.119) or childhood SES (SMD = -0.037, 95% CI: -0.143, 0.069; P = 0.491). These results suggest weak evidence for an association between SES (as measured by education) and biological aging (as measured by telomere length), although there was a lack of consistent findings across the SES measures investigated here.

Alternate JournalEpidemiol Rev
PubMed ID23258416
PubMed Central IDPMC3578449
Grant ListMC_U130059821 / / Medical Research Council / United Kingdom
/ / Medical Research Council / United Kingdom
MC_U130059823 / / Medical Research Council / United Kingdom
MC_UP_A540_1021 / / Medical Research Council / United Kingdom
/ / Wellcome Trust / United Kingdom
MC_UU_12017/7 / / Medical Research Council / United Kingdom