The embodiment of parental death in early life through accelerated epigenetic aging: Implications for understanding how parental death before 18 shapes age-related health risk among older adults

TitleThe embodiment of parental death in early life through accelerated epigenetic aging: Implications for understanding how parental death before 18 shapes age-related health risk among older adults
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsFarina, MP, Klopack, E, Umberson, D, Crimmins, E
JournalSSM - Population Health
Pagination101648
ISSN Number2352-8273
Keywordshealth risks, Older Adults, parental death
Abstract

Parental death in early life has been linked to various adverse health outcomes in older adulthood. This study extends prior research to evaluate how parental death in early life is tied to accelerated epigenetic aging, a potentially important biological mechanism from which social and environmental exposures impact age-related health. We used data from the 2016 Venous Blood Study (VBS), a component of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), to examine the association between parental death in early life and accelerated epigenetic aging as measured by three widely used epigenetic clocks (PCPhenoAge, PCGrimAge, and DunedinPACE). We also assessed whether some of the association is explained by differences in educational attainment, depressive symptoms, and smoking behavior. Methods included a series of linear regression models and formal mediation analysis. Findings indicated that parental death in early life is associated with accelerated epigenetic aging for PCPhenoAge and DunedinPACE. The inclusion of educational attainment, depressive symptoms, and smoking behavior attenuated this association, with formal mediation analysis providing additional support for these observations. Parental death in early life may be one of the most difficult experiences an individual may face. The elevated biological risk associated with parental death in early life may operate through immediate changes but also through more downstream risk factors. This study highlights how early life adversity can set in motion biological changes that have lifelong consequences.

DOI10.1016/j.ssmph.2024.101648
Citation KeyFARINA2024101648