23 November 2022

Aging and the economy

Children born during the economic downturn age faster

Svetlana Maslova, Hi-tech+

This unexpected conclusion was reached by American scientists studying the consequences of the Great Depression of the 1930s in the United States. Those born during this period have markers of accelerated aging, they found. That is, the recession began to affect people's health even before birth.


A new study has found that the cells of people conceived during the Great Depression in the United States from 1929 to 1939 show signs of accelerated aging, writes Nature. To do this, scientists analyzed the epigenetic factors responsible for gene expression in cells in about 800 people born in more or less prosperous regions during this historical period.

Article by Schmitz et al. In utero exposure to the Great Depression is reflected in late-life epigenetic aging signatures published in the journal PNAS – VM.

The findings complement a number of earlier research findings that the consequences of life adversities, such as stress and starvation, at the very beginning of development can shape human health for decades. They may explain the higher rates of mortality and chronic diseases, the authors believe.

"This is not the first major study linking a historical event with changes in the epigenome, but we are stunned by the fact that patterns in the data are detected in people aged 70 to 80 years," commented co—author Patrick Allard from the University of California at Los Angeles.

For example, earlier researchers found Similar results were found in people born during the famine during the end of World War II in the Netherlands. They were more likely to develop metabolic diseases, which indicates the likelihood of malnutrition at an early stage of development affecting metabolism for the rest of their lives.

It is not yet clear what exactly accelerates the aging process — diet, stress or another factor, but the effects of the recession on health were clear. "These children had a kind of biological foundation that epigenetically influenced the nature of their aging," the authors conclude.

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