Lauren Schmitz (Wisconsin) et al Examine The Socioeconomic Gradient in Epigenetic Ageing Clocks with Evidence from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis & HRS


Dr. Lauren Schmitz and Qiongshi Lu of the Wisconsin Center for Demography of Health and Aging, along with Jennifer A. Smith of the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging and others looked at relations between key aspects of SES (education, occupation, income, wealth, neighborhood) and 8 “epigenetic clocks” in MESA and HRS.

Epigenetic clocks are a measure of cellular aging. Using a blood sample, we can calculate epigenetic age to see if someone is aging faster biologically than they are chronologically. In this study, we wanted to see if faster biological aging is associated with lower SES.

We found robust associations between social disadvantage and the GrimAge and DunedinPoAm clocks that are only partially explained by smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity. In the HRS, associations with the PhenoAge (Levine) and epiTOC (Yang) clocks were also evident.

This suggests that certain clocks may be more useful for informing research on the social determinants of health and aging. More work is needed to tease apart why some clocks are more correlated with socioeconomic disadvantage than others (stay tuned!).

Because epigenetic differences are influenced by genes and environment, we also incorporated a polygenic score for intrinsic epigenetic aging into our analysis. Results: “G” and “E” may both contribute to faster biological aging, but more work is needed to suss out rGE and GxE.

Excerpted from Twitter thread.

Lauren L. Schmitz, Wei Zhao, Scott M. Ratliff, Julia Goodwin, Jiacheng Miao, Qiongshi Lu, Xiuqing Guo, Kent D. Taylor, Jingzhong Ding, Yongmei Liu, Morgan Levine & Jennifer A. Smith (2021) The Socioeconomic Gradient in Epigenetic Ageing Clocks: Evidence from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and the Health and Retirement Study, DOI: 10.1080/15592294.2021.1939479