Socioeconomic position and DNA methylation age acceleration across the lifecourse

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

November 15, 2018


Accelerated DNA methylation age is linked to all-cause mortality and environmental factors, but studies of associations with socioeconomic position are limited. Studies generally use small selected samples, and it is unclear how findings with two commonly used methylation age calculations (Horvath and Hannum) translate to general population samples including younger and older adults. In 1099 UK adults aged 28-98 y in 2011-12, we assessed the relationship of Horvath and Hannum DNA methylation age acceleration with a range of social position measures: current income and employment, education, income and unemployment across a 12-year period, and childhood social class. Accounting for confounders, participants less advantaged in childhood were epigenetically ‘older’ as adults: compared to participants with professional/managerial parents, Hannum age was 1.07 years higher (95% confidence interval (CI):0.20-1.94) for those with parents in semi-skilled/unskilled occupations, and 1.85 years higher (95%CI:0.67-3.02) for participants without a working parent at age 14. No other robust associations were seen. Results accord with research implicating early life circumstances as critical for DNA methylation age in adulthood. Since methylation age acceleration as measured by the Horvath and Hannum estimators appears strongly linked to chronological age, research examining associations with the social environment must take steps to avoid age-related confounding.

Published in

American Journal of Epidemiology

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 187 , p.2 -2






Open Access

© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Related Publications



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest