DNA methylation age acceleration: examining the role of socioeconomic position and diet

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Epidemiology and Public Health


This project proposes to investigate whether socioeconomic position is associated with DNA methylation in the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (1946 birth cohort), and whether indicators of diet might mediate any associations found.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000347/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2024
1907672 Studentship ES/P000347/1 24/09/2017 29/06/2025 Anitha George
Description The first stage of analysis found an association between individuals' life course socioeconomic position (that is, parental occupation, educational attainment, adult occupation and household income) and epigenetic markers of biological ageing at age 53 in a sample of individuals from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, a British birth cohort of individuals born in 1946.

Epigenetic ageing biomarkers are one of a set of novel ageing biomarkers based on molecular biology. Other biomarkers in this group included telomere length and biomarkers based on transcriptomics, metabolomics and proteomics. Epigenetic ageing biomarkers have been found to be better at quantifying biological ageing than the other novel ageing biomarkers in this group. Greater epigenetic ageing has been associated with increased risk of mortality, increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and worse ageing outcomes such as poorer physical function and frailty. The analysis examined first and second generation epigenetic ageing biomarkers. The research makes use of second generation epigenetic ageing biomarkers which have not been examined in UK data to date.

The results show that early life disadvantage is associated with greater midlife biological ageing. There is also evidence that disadvantage across the life course is associated with greater biological ageing in midlife depending on the epigenetic ageing biomarker examined. The results indicate that social disadvantage is associated with worse biological ageing.
Exploitation Route Greater epigenetic biological ageing has been associated with increased mortality risk, increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease and worse physical functioning in old age. The results show the importance of preventative measure for later life health and ageing that focus on reducing societal inequalities, and also suggest that these measures should be applied from early childhood and beyond.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Healthcare