Two more years of school lower mortality by 10 percent

Two more years of school lower mortality by 10 percent

A higher level of education leads to slower aging and greater longevity. This is revealed by a new study of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, Published on JAMA Network Open. According to the results of Framingham Heart Studythose with higher levels of education tended to age more slowly and live longer, compared to those who had no more modest education.

A study begun in 1948

The Framingham Heart Study is an ongoing observational study, begun in 1948, currently spanning three generations. The Columbia analysis is the first to link educational attainment with the pace of biological aging and mortality.

“We have known for some time that people with a higher level of education tend to live longer, but there are many challenges to understand how this happens and, above all, whether interventions to promote educational attainment contribute to longevity healthy,” he said Daniel Belskyassociate professor of Epidemiology at the Columbia Mailman School and Aging Center and senior author of the work.

Measuring the pace of aging

To measure the pace of aging, the researchers applied an algorithm, known as the DunedinPACE epigenetic clock, to genomic data collected from the Framingham Heart Study. The latest findings found that, according to the DunedinPACE epigenetic clock measure, 2 extra years of schooling translates into a 2-3% slower rate of aging.

This deceleration of aging corresponds to an approximately 10% reduction in mortality risk in the Framingham Heart Study, according to Belsky’s previous research on DunedinPACE’s association with death risk.

The epigenetic clock

DunedinPACE was developed by Columbia researchers and their colleagues and unveiled in January 2022. Based on the analysis of chemical tags on DNA, contained in white blood cells, or DNA methylation marks, DunedinPACE, an acronym for Peace of Aging Computed from the Epigenomeis measured with a blood test and works like an aging process clock, measuring how quickly or slowly a person’s body changes as they age.

Biological aging refers to the accumulation of molecular mutations which, with advancing age, progressively undermine the integrity and resilience of cells, tissues and organs.

Data from more than 14 thousand people over three generations analyzed

Columbia researchers used data from 14,106 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, spanning three generations, to link data on children’s educational attainment with that of their parents. Then, the scientists used data from a subset of participants who provided blood samples to calculate the pace of biological aging, through the DunedinPACE epigenetic clock. In the primary analysis, researchers tested associations between educational attainment, aging, and mortality in a subset of 3,101 participants for whom measures of educational attainment and rate of aging could be calculated.

For 2,437 participants who had a sibling, the researchers also tested whether differences in educational attainment among family members were associated with a difference in the pace of aging.

“A key confounding factor in studies like these is that people with different levels of education tend to come from families with distant educational backgrounds, resulting in disparities in access to resources,” he explained Gloria Grafa doctoral candidate in the Department of Epidemiology under Belsky’s supervision and first author of the study.

The focus on educational mobility

“To address these issues, we focused on educational mobility, which is how much an individual has completed education compared to their parents, and educational differences between siblings, which is how much an individual has studied compared to their siblings,” Graf added. “This allowed us to control for differences between families and isolate the effects of education,” Graf continued.

By combining these study models with the new DunedinPACE epigenetic clock, the researchers were able to test how education affected the pace of aging. Then, by linking data on education and the pace of aging with longitudinal records of the participants’ lifespans, the team of scientists was able to determine whether a slower pace of aging was responsible for the greater longevity of people with a higher degree. highest education.

Further experimental tests needed

“Our findings support the hypothesis that interventions to promote education slow the pace of biological aging and promote longevity,” Graf noted. “Ultimately, experimental evidence is needed to confirm our findings,” Belsky said.

“Epigenetic clocks like DunedinPace have the potential to improve such experimental studies, providing a result that may reflect the impact of education on healthy aging well before the onset of disease and disability in later life,” Belsky pointed out. “We found that upward educational mobility is associated with both a slowing of aging and a decreased risk of death,” Graf said. “Indeed, healthier aging trajectories were observed among more educated participants,” Graf continued. “This pattern of association was similar across generations and held across sibling comparisons: those with higher educational mobility tended to age more slowly, compared to less educated siblings,” Graf concluded.

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