Strong evidence supports that living in disadvantaged neighborhoods has direct unfavorable impact on mental and physical health. However, whether it also has direct impact on cellular health is largely unknown. Thus we examined whether neighborhood quality was associated with leukocyte telomere length, an indicator of cellular aging.
In May 2014, we extracted and analyzed baseline data from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA), a large epidemiological study of individuals age between 18-65 years (n=2902). Telomere length was determined using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Neighborhood quality was assessed using modified measures of perceived neighborhood disorder, fear of crime, and noise. We used multivariable linear regression models to examine association between perceived neighborhood quality and telomere length with comprehensive adjustment for individual and community characteristics related to socioeconomic and demographic status, urbanization level, mental and physical health, and lifestyle.
Compared to individuals who reported good neighborhood quality, the mean telomere length of those who reported moderate neighborhood quality was approximately 69 base pair shorter (β =-69.33, 95% CI: -119.49, -19.17, p= 0.007), and that of those who reported poor neighborhood quality were 174 base pair shorter (β =-173.80, 95% CI: -298.80, -49.01, p=0.006). For illustrative purposes, one could extrapolate these outcomes to 8.7 and 11.9 years in chronological age, respectively.
We have established an association between perceived neighborhood quality and cellular aging over and above a range of individual attributes. Biological aging processes may be impacted by socioeconomic milieu.