A recent study of Telomere lengths in people living in Glasgow suggests that earning less than the average wage and having an unhealthy diet could speed up the aging process.
Work by the University of Glasgow along with the Glasgow Center for Population Health compared the length of telomeres taken from 382 Glaswegians from two extremes of the economic spectrum, from the most affluent parts of the city to the most deprived.
The Glasgow telomeres study, published in the Public Library of Science and first of its kind in the city, links social factors, including diet and economic standing with the pace at which people age. Over a ten year period, telomere lengths shrunk by 7.7% in people whose household incomes fell below the average income of L 25, 000, compared to only 0.6 % for higher earners.
In comparing those who ate well with those with the poorest diets, lengths of telomeres tended to be longer for healthier eaters.
Dr Paul Shiels– of the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cancer Sciences and head of research for part of the study–emphasized the significance of the results in the journal PLoS One late July: “This study is a first for the city in that it provides a link between how adverse social conditions can influence the biology of aging and hence disease.”
Dr. Shiels summarizes the results of the study by saying that eating poorly and earning less than the average income is likely to increase the rate you age, which increases susceptibility to age-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.
Although the study doesn’t deal with the impact of sociocultural factors at an individual level, it is still extremely valuable, says Shiels, because scientists and researchers are now able to look at the effects of dietary changes and socio-economic conditions on a population level, to observe how different social variables affect the aging process. He adds, “This study is a first for Glasgow and indicates that socio-economic conditions do affect the rate at which you age.”