Age Acceleration and the Life Course


CALL: 2019

DOMAIN: SC - Social and Economic Cohesion

FIRST NAME: Conchita

LAST NAME: D'Ambrosio



HOST INSTITUTION: University of Luxembourg

KEYWORDS: Socio-economic status, life events, ageing, epigenetics, age acceleration.

START: 2020-09-01



Submitted Abstract

Populations around the world are currently ageing rapidly, which transformation will put considerable pressure on public finances. The evolution of ageing-related costs, mostly driven by long-term care and health-care spending, will vary widely among Member States, with Luxembourg being the country expected to witness the largest rise. From a public-finance perspective, promoting good health among the older would significantly reduce the pressure on public budgets. From a biological perspective, the process of becoming older reflects the accumulation of a wide variety of molecular and cellular damage over time. Socio-economic environments and individual characteristics play an important role in this process at every stage of life, starting as early as conception. Life circumstances interact with biological processes in a complex way, and socio-economic factors ‘get under the skin’, affecting people’s health while ageing. As a result, the comprehensive study of ageing requires expertise from a number of different disciplines.We here propose an interdisciplinary approach to analyze the effects of socio-economic factors in the ageing process, where economics, sociology and health psychology meet biology and epigenetics. We focus on the most accurate age biomarker, the epigenetic clock, based on a key concept in epigenetics, DNA methylation, and how this methylation changes with age. Epigenetic modifications are reversible, hence their use in the study of ageing is very promising as they potentially allow for the identification and validation of anti-ageing interventions.We will contribute to the analysis of the epigenetic clock from the perspective of social scientists by taking full account of its associations with socio-demographic and economic factors, and the nuances and complexities of the measurement of individual socio-economic status. We will address a series of different questions in relation to individual ageing: 1) the in-utero transmission from the individual’s mother; 2) the effects of individual life events and statuses prior to the measurement of the epigenetic clock; and 3) the evaluation of changes over time in the epigenetic clock within the same individual and the association between levels and changes in the clock between mother and child.

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