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Neighborhood Environment, Social Cohesion, and Epigenetic Aging – Carolina Center for Population Aging and Health

Neighborhood Environment, Social Cohesion, and Epigenetic Aging


Martin, Chantel L.; Ward-Caviness, Cavin K.; Dhingra, Radhika; Zikry, Tarek M.; Galea, Sandro; Wildman, Derek E.; Koenen, Karestan C.; Uddin, Monica; & Aiello, Allison E. (2021). Neighborhood Environment, Social Cohesion, and Epigenetic Aging. Aging, 13(6), 7883-7899. PMCID: PMC8034890


Living in adverse neighborhood environments has been linked to risk of aging-related diseases and mortality; however, the biological mechanisms explaining this observation remain poorly understood. DNA methylation (DNAm), a proposed mechanism and biomarker of biological aging responsive to environmental stressors, offers promising insight into potential molecular pathways. We examined associations between three neighborhood social environment measures (poverty, quality, and social cohesion) and three epigenetic clocks (Horvath, Hannum, and PhenoAge) using data from the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study (n=158). Using linear regression models, we evaluated associations in the total sample and stratified by sex and social cohesion. Neighborhood quality was associated with accelerated DNAm aging for Horvath age acceleration (β = 1.8; 95% CI: 0.4, 3.1), Hannum age acceleration (β = 1.7; 95% CI: 0.4, 3.0), and PhenoAge acceleration (β = 2.1; 95% CI: 0.4, 3.8). In models stratified on social cohesion, associations of neighborhood poverty and quality with accelerated DNAm aging remained elevated for residents living in neighborhoods with lower social cohesion, but were null for those living in neighborhoods with higher social cohesion. Our study suggests that living in adverse neighborhood environments can speed up epigenetic aging, while positive neighborhood attributes may buffer effects.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title



Martin, Chantel L.
Ward-Caviness, Cavin K.
Dhingra, Radhika
Zikry, Tarek M.
Galea, Sandro
Wildman, Derek E.
Koenen, Karestan C.
Uddin, Monica
Aiello, Allison E.

Article Type




Data Set/Study

Detroit Neighborhood Health Study (DNHS)


United States of America




Martin, C. - 0000-0003-1907-0810
Aiello - 0000-0001-7029-2537