Early-life socioeconomic disadvantage, not current, predicts accelerated epigenetic aging of monocytes

Makeda K. Austin, Edith Chen, Kharah M. Ross, Lisa M. McEwen, Julia L. Maclsaac, Michael S. Kobor, Gregory E. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Low socioeconomic status (SES) in early-life and adulthood independently contribute to increased risk for aging-related chronic diseases. One mechanistic hypothesis for these associations involves faster cellular aging of immune cells, which could plausibly contribute to chronic disease pathogenesis by compromising host resistance and/or up-regulating inflammation. However, little is known about the association between life-course SES and cellular aging. The present study examines the association of early-life and current SES with a novel biomarker of cellular aging termed the “epigenetic clock,” in monocytes. Additionally, we examine health behaviors and depressive symptoms as potential explanatory pathways. The study involved 335 participants between the ages of 15 and 55 from Vancouver, Canada and surrounding areas. Enrolled participants had to fit into four life-course SES trajectories, corresponding to low-low, low-high, high-low and high-high combinations of early-life (ages 0 to 5) and current SES respectively. Cellular aging of monocytes was measured using Horvath's DNA methylation derived measure of epigenetic age acceleration. Results indicated that socioeconomic disadvantage during early-life, but not later in life, was associated with accelerated epigenetic aging of monocytes. No early-life SES by current SES interaction was detected, suggesting that socioeconomic mobility is unrelated to epigenetic age acceleration. In path analyses, neither current health behaviors nor current depressive symptoms emerged as mediators of the early-life SES effect. These findings suggest socioeconomic disadvantage in early-life is independently predictive of cellular aging of immune cells, with potential implications for aging-related diseases later in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-134
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - Nov. 2018


  • Epigenetic aging
  • Immune
  • Socioeconomic status (SES)


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