Spousal concordance in telomere length: New evidence from older adults in the US

PLoS One. 2018 Nov 1;13(11):e0202388. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202388. eCollection 2018.


Telomere length (TL) has been associated with a range of aging outcomes as well as mortality. Recent research has shown both high heritability (~70%) of TL as well as moderate spousal similarity (r~0.3) using European datasets. This paper explores the level of spousal concordance in telomere length in the Health and Retirement Study, a national sample of adults in the US. The results show that the spousal correlations are lower (r~0.11). Regression-based associations in TL in the US are low (beta~0.08) and also vary by the number of times respondents have been married, where spouses married a single time have higher associations in TL (beta~.12) than spouses married more once (beta~0.03). I also find variation in spousal TL association levels based on husband's education level. These findings suggest the possibility of both assortative mating patterns related to telomere length as well as likelihood of shared environmental factors that cause TL similarity in people who are socially connected.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Spouses
  • Telomere / genetics*
  • Telomere Homeostasis
  • Telomere Shortening*