View Full Version : Bad Neighborhoods May Be Bad for Your DNA

rock hunter
06-26-2015, 03:05 AM
By Nicholas Bakalar June 24, 2015 2:20 pm June 24, 2015 2:20 pm


It has long been known that people who live in unsafe neighborhoods suffer poorer health and increased risk for death. Now researchers have found that living in these areas is associated with shorter telomere length, a marker of aging cells.

Telomeres, which lie at the ends of chromosomes, are structures involved in the replication of DNA molecules. Each time a cell divides, telomeres becomes shorter, a process associated with aging, illness and death.

Researchers studied 2,981 Dutch people aged 18 to 65, measuring telomere lengths in their white blood cells. They assessed neighborhood quality by asking residents about high noise levels, vandalism in the neighborhood, and feeling unsafe walking alone. The study is in PLOS One.

After controlling for a range of socioeconomic, health and lifestyle characteristics, they found that the greater the residents’ degree of unfavorable perceptions about their neighborhoods, the shorter the average telomere length in their cells.

The lead author, Mijung Park, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Pittsburgh, said that the results should be interpreted cautiously — it is an observational study, and does not prove cause and effect.

Still, she said, “When we look at two people of the same age and gender and other characteristics, we find that those who live in bad neighborhoods are biologically older than those who do not by about 12 years.”



Strong evidence supports that living in disadvantaged neighborhoods has direct unfavorable impact on mental and physical health. However, whether it also has direct impact on cellular health is largely unknown. Thus we examined whether neighborhood quality was associated with leukocyte telomere length, an indicator of cellular aging.

In May 2014, we extracted and analyzed baseline data from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA), a large epidemiological study of individuals age between 18–65 years (n=2902). Telomere length was determined using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Neighborhood quality was assessed using modified measures of perceived neighborhood disorder, fear of crime, and noise. We used multivariable linear regression models to examine association between perceived neighborhood quality and telomere length with comprehensive adjustment for individual and community characteristics related to socioeconomic and demographic status, urbanization level, mental and physical health, and lifestyle.

Compared to individuals who reported good neighborhood quality, the mean telomere length of those who reported moderate neighborhood quality was approximately 69 base pair shorter (β =-69.33, 95% CI: -119.49, -19.17, p= 0.007), and that of those who reported poor neighborhood quality were 174 base pair shorter (β =-173.80, 95% CI: -298.80, -49.01, p=0.006). For illustrative purposes, one could extrapolate these outcomes to 8.7 and 11.9 years in chronological age, respectively.

We have established an association between perceived neighborhood quality and cellular aging over and above a range of individual attributes. Biological aging processes may be impacted by socioeconomic milieu.

06-26-2015, 10:05 AM
The most likely cause would be exposure to toxins, from archaic housing(eg asbestos) unclean water, contaminated food and proximity to industrial facilities