“Location, location, location” is the realtor’s mantra, and now, besides great schools, walkable streets and friendly neighbors, real estate agents may include “longevity” among the features trumpeted in their listings.
In a study published recently in PLOS One, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that people who live in bad neighborhoods have shorter telomeres.
Telomeres are sections of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that protect them from damage. As your DNA molecules replicate, the telomeres get shorter, until the cells eventually die. Before that, though, telomeres are implicated in aging and disease.
The researchers studied more than 2900 Dutch participants who were part of the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. They found that people who lived in rougher neighborhoods -- more crime, vandalism, noise, higher perception of danger, etc. -- had significantly shorter telomeres than people who lived in safer neighborhoods. In a press release, lead author Mijung Park, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N. said, 'We found that indeed, biological aging processes could be influenced by socioeconomic conditions.”
In fact, people who lived in the worse neighborhoods were, in terms of the length of their telomeres, more than 10 years older than people living in nicer parts of town.
The researchers warn that the connection between cellular aging and neighborhood quality are observational at this point. However, Dr. Park said of the participants who lived in tougher areas, “It’s possible that their cells are chronically activated in response to psychological and physiological stresses created by disadvantaged socioeconomic, political, and emotional circumstances.”