The unexpected factors that can impact how people age – study

Science and Health

Experiencing depression and living in an economically disadvantaged urban neighborhood could accelerate the aging process, a new study that was published on June 5 found.

The peer-reviewed study, published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, found that the process of aging accelerates depending on the person’s living conditions and mental health.

The study, which takes into account behavior-related risk factors and personal health, found that there is a correlation between depression, geographic location, and aging on a cellular level. 

How did the researchers measure these phenomena?

The researchers used secondary data from 1445 participants from a previous study that collected epigenetic data and then collected primary data from 50,000 participants who were between the ages of 45 to 85 when recruited. 

“Longitudinal studies, like the CLSA, are important to confirm associations like those found in this study,” said Prof. Parminder Raina, the study’s senior author.

The writer, who has lived in Jerusalem for 48 years, is the author of 14 books. Her latest novel is Searching for Sarah. (credit: Courtesy)

“By following the same group of participants for 20 years, we will be able to determine whether epigenetic changes are stable or reversible over time. We will also gain insight into the mechanisms that are leading to accelerated epigenetic aging.”

The researchers measured depressive symptoms in participants of the study by using a depression scale that rated depression levels from 1-10, with 10 indicating more extreme depressive symptoms.

The researchers found that for every point increase, the risk of death by a month also increased. The researchers theorized that this trend was because the distress that depression can cause can create disregulation in the physiological systems of the body. This disregulation can then cause premature aging. 

In researching the impact of Material and Social Deprivation (MSD), the researchers utilized a scale produced by the Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium (CANUE) based on the 2011 census.

Social deprivation, which is the lack of social resources, and material deprivation, which is the lack of access to material goods like nutritious food, can increase the risk of death by almost one year depending on the level of deprivation.

“Our study used two DNA methylation-based estimators, known as epigenetic clocks, to examine aging at the cellular level and estimate the difference between chronological age and biological age,” said Divya Joshi, one of the study’s authors and a  research associate in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster University.

“Our findings showed that neighborhood deprivation and depressive symptoms were positively associated with acceleration of the epigenetic age estimated using the DNAm GrimAge clock. This adds to the growing body of evidence that living in urban areas with higher levels of neighborhood deprivation and having depression symptoms are both associated with premature biological aging.”

“Our results showed that the effect of neighborhood deprivation on epigenetic age acceleration was similar regardless of depression symptoms, suggesting that depression influences epigenetic age acceleration through mechanisms unrelated to neighborhood deprivation,” added Joshi.