Social relationships and epigenetic aging in older adulthood: Results from the Health and Retirement Study.

TitleSocial relationships and epigenetic aging in older adulthood: Results from the Health and Retirement Study.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsRentscher, KE, Klopack, ET, Crimmins, EM, Seeman, TE, Cole, SW, Carroll, JE
JournalBrain, behavior and immunity
ISSN Number1090-2139
Keywordsbiological aging, DNA Methylation, epigenetic clock, Social Relationships, Social strain, Social Support

Growing evidence suggests that social relationship quality can influence age-related health outcomes, although how the quality of one's relationships directly relates to the underlying aging process is less clear. We hypothesized that the absence of close relationships as well as lower support and higher strain within existing relationships would be associated with an accelerated epigenetic aging profile among older adults in the Health and Retirement Study. Adults (N = 3,647) aged 50-100 years completed ratings of support and strain in relationships with their spouse, children, other family members, and friends. They also provided a blood sample that was used for DNA methylation profiling to calculate a priori-specified epigenetic aging measures: Horvath, Hannum, PhenoAge, GrimAge, and Dunedin Pace of Aging methylation (DunedinPoAm38). Generalized linear models that adjusted for chronological age, sex, and race/ethnicity and applied a false discovery rate correction revealed that the absence of marital and friend relationships related to an older GrimAge and faster DunedinPoAm38. Among those with existing relationships, lower support from a spouse, child, other family, and friends and higher strain with friends related to an older PhenoAge and GrimAge and faster DunedinPoAm38. In secondary analyses that further adjusted for socioeconomic and lifestyle factors, lower support from other family members and friends was associated with greater epigenetic aging. Findings suggest that the absence of close relationships and lower support within existing relationships-particularly with family members and friends-relate to accelerated epigenetic aging in older adulthood, offering one mechanism through which social relationships might influence risk for age-related declines and disease.

Citation Key13562
PubMed ID37683960
PubMed Central IDPMC10650967
Grant ListP30 AG017265 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
T32 AG000037 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States