Life Course Sociogenomic Analysis of Social Inequalities in Aging

Awarded Scholars:
Daniel Belsky, Columbia University
Project Date:
Apr 2019
Award Amount:
$167,303

Co-funded with the JPB Foundation

Social disadvantage is associated with many adverse outcomes in aging, including earlier onset of disease and disability, reduced well-being, and earlier mortality. Although chronological aging occurs at the same rate for everyone, biological aging occurs faster for some and slower for others. Biological changes, including metabolic, inflammatory and epigenetic modifications, are thought to be associated with differences in aging outcomes across the life course. However, we know relatively little about how social disadvantage "gets under the skin" and the extent to which it contributes to inequalities in the aging process. 

Public health researcher Daniel Belsky will use two national surveys to study how social disadvantage is associated with biological aging and how the latter contributes to inequalities in aging. Belsky will address three questions. First, is life course socioeconomic disadvantage associated with accelerated biological aging? Are early- and later-life socioeconomic disadvantages independently associated with the rate of biological aging? And finally, is upward mobility associated with early-life socioeconomic disadvantage and accelerated biological aging? A key innovation is the application of new methods to quantify biological aging within well-established, long-running surveys that can test how social disadvantage accumulates across the life course and may affect biological aging.

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