Low social support is associated with shorter leukocyte telomere length in late life: multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis

Psychosom Med. 2013 Feb;75(2):171-7. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31828233bf. Epub 2013 Jan 31.


Objective: The primary goal was to test the hypothesis that limited social support (SS) is related to shorter leukocyte telomere length (LTL), particularly in an older adult population.

Methods: Cross-sectional analyses were performed on 948 participants aged 45 to 84 years at Examination 1 of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (18.4% white, 53.1% Hispanics, and 28.5% African American). LTL was determined by using quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and SS was measured with the Enhancing Recovery in Coronary Heart Disease SS inventory.

Results: Across the entire sample, SS was not associated with LTL (p=.87) after adjusting for demographic (age, sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status), age×sex, age×race, health (body mass index, diabetes, pulse pressure), and life-style factors (smoking, physical activity, diet); however, the interaction term age (dichotomized)×SS was significant (p=.001). Stratification by age group revealed a positive association between SS (score range, 5-25) and LTL in the older (65-84 years; B[SE]=.005[.002]; p=.007) but not younger participants (45-64 years; p=.12) after adjusting for covariates.

Conclusions: These results from a racially/ethnically diverse community sample of men and women provide initial evidence that low SS is associated with shorter LTL in adults aged 65 years and older and is consistent with the hypothesis that social environment may contribute to rates of cellular aging, particularly in late life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Atherosclerosis / ethnology
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes*
  • Linear Models
  • Loneliness / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Isolation / psychology
  • Social Support*
  • Telomere Shortening / physiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data