Epigenetic profiles, ageing and social position

Presenter: Amanda Hughes, ISER, University of Essex

Recently it has been reported that SEP social position is associated with variation in DNA methylation in whole blood, however these associations need to be replicated. Further, evidence suggests that socially disadvantaged groups are biologically ‘older’ than advantaged groups. Thus, biological ‘wear and tear’ assessed by allostatic load (Robertson et al., 2014; Mcewen and Seeman 1999) and physical and cognitive functioning (Hurst et al., 2013) are socially patterned. However, studies on social patterning using biomarkers of ageing such as telomere length are mixed (Cherkas et al., 2006; Robertson et al., 2012). Epigenetic profiles show many loci that are associated with age. Horvath (2013) derived an ‘epigenetic clock’, using data from a wide variety of tissues, which shows deviation from chronological age in some samples, indicating that it has interesting biological properties, and is more informative and robust than other aging biomarkers. In addition to a genome wide DNA methylation analysis of social position, we will describe the association of the ‘epigenetic clock’ with social position histories using the 10 year data available at wave 3 of Understanding Society.