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Thursday, 20 July 2006 09:57
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Ageing 'linked to social status'
According to research people in lower social classes are biologically older than those in higher classes.

The claim follows the discovery of accelerated ageing among working class volunteers, leaving them biologically older than those higher up the social ladder.

Genetic tests revealed that being working class could add the equivalent of seven years to a person's age, whilst marrying "below" herself added years to a woman's biological age, scientists report in the journal Aging Cell today.

Professor Tim Spector, lead researcher on the study and director of the Twin Research Unit, St Thomas' Hospital, London, said: "Not only does social class effect health and age-related disease, but seems to have an impact on the ageing process itself.

"This obviously begs the question 'Why?'

"The theory we have come up with is that it is related to the stress of being in that social status compared to someone who is not in that social status.

"The strain of being in that job, the effort-reward imbalance, self esteem and just generally the psychological stress of having lots of areas you cannot control in your life are perhaps more important than we have realised”.

He said this may have a biological impact on the body, making cells divide more quickly and reducing the telomere length.

Thomas von Zglinicki, professor of cellular gerontology at the Institute of Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, said: "We did a similar study about two years ago, but we did not find a significant correlation between telomere length and socio-economic status.

"We expected to find it, and we were quite disappointed when we didn't.

He said the correlation between telomere length and social class in this new research was on the verge of being statistically significant.

"I still think this data and ours go reasonably well together. There is probably some effect of social status on telomere length.

"However, it is astonishingly weak, given the fact that socio-economic status is a very important determinant of health and of life-span, so I would have expected a much stronger effect”.


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