Living in a stressful neighbourhood is related to ageing faster, according to new research using telomeres as a marker for biological ageing. Telomeres are part of people’s DNA which give a measure of ‘miles on the clock,’ or biological age. Telomere length is a biological marker of age that gets shorter over time.
The study, published in PLoS One, combined population health and molecular biology research and found that people who reported problems in their local area – such as assaults, burglaries, litter and vandalism – had shorter telomere lengths, and the effect was more marked among women.
In this research, the shorter telomere length existed even after the analysis had taken into account other factors known to be associated with telomere length, such as age, sex, social class, smoking, diet, weight, depression and fitness.
The reported problems in people’s environment also included muggings, smells and fumes and disturbances by children or youngsters.
The study is a result of a cross-disciplinary collaboration between Social scientist Prof. Anne Ellaway from the University of Glasgow MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit and Geroscientist Prof Paul Shiels at the University’s Institute of Cancer Sciences.