Reduced epigenetic age in older adults who volunteer.

TitleReduced epigenetic age in older adults who volunteer.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsNakamura, JS, Kwok, C, Huang, A, Strecher, VJ, Kim, ES, Cole, SW
ISSN Number1873-3360
KeywordsDNA Methylation, Epigenetic age acceleration, Health behaviors, Volunteering

BACKGROUND: Volunteering is associated with improved health and well-being outcomes, including a reduced risk of mortality. However, the biological mechanisms underlying the association between volunteering and healthy aging and longevity have not been well-established. We evaluated if volunteering was associated with reduced epigenetic age acceleration in older adults.

METHODS: We evaluated associations between volunteering and age acceleration, measured by 13 DNA methylation (DNAm) "epigenetic clocks" in 4011 older adults (M=69 years; SD=10 years) who participated in the Health and Retirement Study. We assessed 9 first-generation clocks (Horvath, Hannum, Horvath Skin, Lin, Garagnani, Vidalbralo, Weidner, Yang, and Bocklandt, which predict chronological age) and 4 second-generation clocks (Zhang, PhenoAge, GrimAge, and DunedinPoAm, which predict future disease or longevity). We quantified the total associations between volunteering and DNAm age acceleration as well as the extent to which these associations might be attributable to potential confounding by individual demographics (e.g., race), social demographics (e.g., income), health factors (e.g., diabetes), and health behaviors (e.g., smoking).

RESULTS: Volunteering was associated with reduced epigenetic age acceleration across 6 epigenetic clocks optimized for predicting health and longevity (False Discovery Rate [FDR] q < 0.0001 for epigenetic clocks: PhenoAge, GrimAge, DunedinPoAm, Zhang mortality, Yang mitotic; FDR q < 0.01: Hannum). These associations were mostly independent of demographic and health factors, but substantially attenuated after adjusting for health behaviors.

CONCLUSION: Volunteering was associated with reduced epigenetic age acceleration in 6 of 13 (mostly second-generation) epigenetic clocks. Results provide preliminary evidence that volunteering might provide health benefits through slower biological aging and implicate health behaviors as one potential mechanism of such effects.

Citation Key12881
PubMed ID36521251