Race-related health disparities and biological aging: does rate of telomere shortening differ across blacks and whites?

Biol Psychol. 2014 May;99:92-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.03.007. Epub 2014 Mar 29.


Recent work suggests that leukocyte telomere length (LTL), a marker of cellular aging, is sensitive to effects of social stress and may also provide early indication of premature aging. Using data from a birth cohort with LTL information at birth and in middle adulthood we examined a potential source of race-based health disparity by testing the hypothesis that Blacks would demonstrate a faster rate of telomere shortening than Whites. Linear regression analyses were conducted and adjusted for pack years, BMI, education and social factors, diet, exercise, marital status, and age. At birth black individuals had LTLs that were longer, on average, than their White counterparts (b=3.85, p<0.01). However, rate of shortening was greater for Blacks, who showed a larger difference in length between birth and adulthood (b=5.10, p=0.01) as compared with Whites, resulting in smaller racial differences in absolute adult LTL.

Keywords: Prospective follow-up; Race, human; Social disparities in health; Social stress; Telomere; Telomere shortening.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Continental Ancestry Group / genetics*
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cohort Studies
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / genetics*
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leukocytes / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Telomere Shortening / genetics*