Neighborhood social environment and changes in leukocyte telomere length: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

Rashida Brown, Elleni M.Hailu, Belinda L.Needham, Ana Diez Roux, Teresa E.Seemand, Jue Lin, Mahasin S. Mujahid

Health & Place
November 16, 2020

Abstract: Given limited research on the impact of neighborhood environments on accelerated biological aging, we examined whether changes in neighborhood socioeconomic and social conditions were associated with change in leukocyte telomere length using 10 years of longitudinal data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (years 2000–2011; N = 1031; mean age = 61, SD = 9.4). Leukocyte telomere length change was corrected for regression to the mean and neighborhood was defined as census tract. Neighborhood socioeconomic indicators (factor-based score of income, education, occupation, and wealth of neighborhood) and neighborhood social environment indicators (aesthetic quality, social cohesion, safety) were obtained from the U.S Census/American Community Survey and via study questionnaire, respectively. Results of linear mixed-effects models showed that independent of individual sociodemographic characteristics, each unit of improvement in neighborhood socioeconomic status was associated with slower telomere length attrition over 10-years (β = 0.002; 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 0.0001, 0.004); whereas each unit of increase in safety (β = −0.043; 95% CI: -0.069, −0.016) and overall neighborhood social environment score (β = -0.005; 95% CI: -0.009, −0.0004) were associated with more pronounced telomere attrition, after additionally adjusting for neighborhood socioeconomic status. This study provides support for considerations of the broader social and socioeconomic contexts in relation to biological aging. Future research should explore potential psychosocial mechanisms underlying these associations using longitudinal study designs with repeated observations.

Featured Fellows

Elleni Hailu

Epidemiology, Public Health, UC Berkeley
Computational Social Science Fellow