Social Disparities in Telomere Length among Older U.S. Adults: Differences by Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Age

Lauren Brown, University of Southern California
Belinda Needham, University of Michigan
Jennifer A. Ailshire, University of Southern California

Telomeres are recognized as fundamental to the human aging process and telomere length (TL) is hypothesized to be a biomarker of aging. Prior research suggests shorter TL is associated with older age, male gender, and Caucasian race. However, little is known about differences in TL across race/ethnicity and gender or how differences vary by age in older adults. This study examines the social patterning of TL among older adults by simultaneously characterizing differences within and between race/ethnic and gender groups across age. Data are from the 2008 Health and Retirement Study. We found women and blacks have longer TL, yet black women maybe driving differences in TL by race/ethnicity and gender. Differences by race/ethnicity and gender did not vary across age, yet race/ethnic differences were greater among women than men across age. These findings suggest the importance of investigating disparities in TL using multiple dimensions of identity and social status.

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Presented in Poster Session 5: Adult Health and Mortality