Being at the last rung of the social ladder just got worse, for a new study has found that not only are people from lower socio-economic groups more likely to die earlier from heart attacks, strokes and cancer, but that even their body’s cells tend to age at a much faster pace.
The study, on white blood cells from 1552 female twins, has found that on an average, body cells in women with more menial jobs are seven years older to women of the same chronological age with non-manual jobs, even after keeping in mind unhealthy activities such as lack of exercise, excess weight, smoking and poor diet.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Tim Spector of St Thomas' Hospital in London who measured the lengths of telomeres, the repeating DNA motifs that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes.
The length of telomeres is an indicator of the amount of stress the cell is likely to have been under. The shortness of the telomeres in a cell indicates the number of times the cell has divided.
The researchers found that in women who were manual workers, telomeres were on average 140 DNA base pairs shorter.
Tim Spector said that low socioeconomic status might be the reason behind the “aging” for it puts people under greater psychological stress that in turn could have subtle metabolic effects, exposing cells to more oxidative damage.
"The greater psychological stress of being in a low social class, with more people above you in the food chain and less control over your life, is the unseen hand that might mean more stress at cellular level. Oxidative stress does make telomeres shorten," the New Scientist quoted him, as saying.