Socioeconomic status and cell aging in children

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Jun;74(12):1948-51. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.02.019. Epub 2012 Mar 17.


Theory suggests that chronic stress associated with disadvantaged social status may lead to acceleration in the rate of decline in physiological functioning. The purpose of this study is to examine the association between parental socioeconomic status (SES) and leukocyte telomere length (LTL), a marker of cell aging, in children. We examined SES and LTL in 70 white and black US children aged 7-13 who participated in the community-based AMERICO (Admixture Mapping for Ethnic and Racial Insulin Complex Outcomes) study. LTL was assessed using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method. Parental education was positively associated with child LTL, net of controls for sex, age, race/ethnicity, and family income. Compared to children with at least one college-educated parent, children whose parents never attended college had telomeres shorter by 1,178 base pairs, which is roughly equivalent to 6 years of additional aging. Socioeconomic disparities in cell aging are evident in early life, long before the onset of age-related diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Child
  • Educational Status
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / cytology*
  • Male
  • Parents*
  • Social Class*
  • Telomere / physiology*
  • United States