Parents often worry about finding a home in a good neighbourhood, near good schools, away from crime, where their children can play outside and stay safe. But the latest research shows that living in a good idea is important throughout your life to maintain healthy cells.
A team from the Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences studied how neighbourhood quality affected the cells of long-term residents and found that people living in worse areas experienced accelerated cellular ageing, showing the socioeconomic conditions can affect aging processes beyond simple dietary trends.
Telomeres are pieces of folded DNA found at the end of chromosomes. Every time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten very slightly, which is thought to be one of the main reasons why we experience aging and the effects of aging. The team at Pittsburgh found that telomeres shortened more drastically over time if people lived in poorer conditions.
Researchers were already aware that physical and psychological stress can accelerate aging but the biological process was unknown until now. The study showed that the difference in telomere length was comparable to 12 years in chronological age.
Ultimately, if telomeres become too short, the DNA begins to degrade and cells lose their function. While they do not shorten in tissues where cells do not continually divide (such as cells in the heart muscles), shortened telomeres are associated with cancer and cell death. Prematurely shortened telomeres can have a huge impact on overall health, mobility, appearance, and reproductive health.