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Socioeconomic Factors, Pollution Influence Epigenetic Aging Among Black Americans

Socioeconomic status, increased neighborhood deprivation, and air pollution influence epigenetic aging among Black Americans, according to a new study appearing in PLOS One. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania examined the contributions the social environment makes to racial disparities in aging, as gauged by differences in DNA methylation. In a cohort of 2,960 non-Hispanic participants from the Health and Retirement Study, 82 percent of whom were white and 18 percent of whom were Black, the researchers found Black participants had accelerated epigenetic aging on the GrimAge and Dunedin Pace of Aging measures. Through multivariable linear regression models and decomposition analyses, the researchers found that individual-level socioeconomic status accounts for a large portion of the aging disparities they observed, as do neighborhood-level deprivation and air pollution. "Eliminating disparities in biological aging, or weathering, would greatly reduce the persistent and pervasive disparities in health between aging Black and White Americans," the researchers write. "It is crucial to identify the factors contributing to weathering and to take action to address them."