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Schooling Linked To Longevity And Slowed Aging

4 months, 2 weeks ago

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Posted on Mar 04, 2024, 6 p.m.

According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, those enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) who achieved higher levels of education tended to age more slowly and lived longer than those with less upward educational mobility. The study from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and The Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center found that upward educational mobility was significantly associated with a slower rate of aging and a decreased risk of death. 

"We've known for a long time that people who have higher levels of education tend to live longer lives. But there are a bunch of challenges in figuring out how that happens and, critically, whether interventions to promote educational attainment will contribute to healthy longevity," said Daniel Belsky, Ph.D., associate professor of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School and the Aging Center and senior author of the paper.

The DunedinPACE epigenetic clock algorithm (developed by the Columbia researchers and colleagues in 2022) was applied to the genomic data from 14,106 participants of the FHS (an ongoing observational study initiated in 1948 that currently spans three generations) to measure the pace of aging of the participants. The analysis of a subset of 3,101 participants who provided blood samples revealed that two additional years of schooling translated into a 2-3% slower pace of aging, and this slowing benefit corresponded to roughly a 10% reduced risk of mortality according to the yardstick of the epigenetic clock. Researchers also tested if there were differences between 2,437 participants with a sibling who was also enrolled in the FHS. 

"A key confound in studies like these is that people with different levels of education tend to come from families with different educational backgrounds and different levels of other resources," explained Gloria Graf, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Epidemiology supervised by Belsky, and first author of the study. "To address these confounds, we focused on educational mobility, how much more (or less) education a person completed relative to their parents, and sibling differences in educational attainment -- how much more (or less) education a person completed relative to their siblings. These study designs control for differences between families and allow us to isolate the effects of education."

"Our findings support the hypothesis that interventions to promote educational attainment will slow the pace of biological aging and promote longevity," noted Graf. "Ultimately, experimental evidence is needed to confirm our findings," added Belsky. "Epigenetic clocks like DunedinPace have potential to enhance such experimental studies by providing an outcome that can reflect impacts of education on healthy aging well before the onset of disease and disability in later life."

"We found that upward educational mobility was associated both with a slower pace of aging and decreased risk of death," said Graf. "In fact, up to half of the educational gradient in mortality we observed was explained by healthier aging trajectories among better-educated participants." 

According to the researchers, the pattern of association was similar across multiple generations and held within family sibling comparisons: showing that siblings with higher educational mobility tended to have a slower pace of aging as compared with their lesser-educated siblings.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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