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2024-05-17| Special

Discrimination Leads to Rapid Aging, Science Shows the Detrimental Effects of this Act

by Bernice Lottering
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Both everyday and major discrimination consistently correlated with accelerated aging, while workplace discrimination contributed to faster aging to a lesser extent.

In a revolutionary turn of events, research has directed focus at the physiological impact of abuse in the form of discrimination. Here, both small and large experiences of interpersonal discrimination were linked to molecular-level signs of biological aging. This scientifically supported message demonstrates how experiencing racial or sexual prejudice can actively accelerate biological pathologies.

Discrimination’s Deadly Toll: Fueling Mortality with Accelerated Aging

A recent study led by researchers at the NYU School of Global Public Health suggests that discrimination could hasten the biological aging process. Fundamentally this research connects interpersonal discrimination to changes that occur at the molecular level, uncovering a possible underlying reason for differences in aging-related health issues and mortality rates.

Specifically, the results showed links between both everyday and major discrimination and accelerated biological aging across three epigenetic clocks. Additionally, it was found that differences in smoking behavior and body mass index explained about half of this relationship. In essence, discrimination may accelerate biological aging, suggesting that interventions to reduce discrimination could contribute to promoting healthy longevity.

Adolfo Cuevas, assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at NYU’s School of Global Public Health and senior author of the study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity-Health stated “Experiencing discrimination appears to hasten the process of aging, which may be contributing to disease and early mortality and fueling health disparities,”

Major Health Concerns Related to Discrimination, Although the Pathophysiology Remains Unclear 

Research indicates individuals who experience discrimination based on factors like race, gender, weight, or disability are more likely to suffer from health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression. While the exact biological reasons for these disparities are not fully understood, it’s thought that ongoing stress from discrimination plays a significant role. Furthermore, recent studies suggest that continued exposure to discrimination may speed up the body’s aging processes.

Here, Cuevas and his team analyzed 3 specific measures of DNA methylation, key markers indicating the biological effects of stress and aging, to explore the connection between discrimination and aging. They conducted their study using data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) project, a longitudinal study on health and well-being supported by the National Institute on Aging. Nearly 2,000 adults, the study participants, provided blood samples and answered surveys about their experiences with different types of discrimination: everyday, major, and workplace. Everyday discrimination involves small, subtle instances of disrespect in daily life, while major discrimination refers to more severe incidents, such as physical threats from law enforcement. Workplace discrimination includes unfair treatment and limited career opportunities or disciplinary actions based on one’s identity.

Everyday and Major Discrimination Contribute Most to Faster Aging

The findings indeed revealed a connection between discrimination and accelerated biological senescence, which would mean that individuals reporting higher levels of discrimination tend to age biologically faster than those experiencing less discrimination. More precisely, both everyday and major discrimination consistently correlated with accelerated aging, while workplace discrimination also contributed to faster aging, albeit to a lesser extent.

Then, further investigation showed that two health factors, namely smoking and body mass index (BMI), accounted for approximately half of the association between discrimination and aging. This suggests that additional stress responses to discrimination, such as heightened cortisol levels and disrupted sleep patterns, contribute to the acceleration of aging processes.

Cuevas, who is also a core faculty member at the Center for Anti-racism, Social Justice, & Public Health at NYU School of Global Public Health, said, “While health behaviors partly explain these disparities, it’s likely that a range of processes are at play connecting psychosocial stressors to biological aging.”

Furthermore, the impact of discrimination on aging varies depending on race. Black participants, who experienced more discrimination, tended to age faster biologically. On the other hand, White participants, who faced discrimination less often, seemed more affected by it when it did occur, possibly because they were less accustomed to it and had fewer coping mechanisms. The study did not have data on other racial and ethnic groups. “These findings underscore the importance of addressing all forms of discrimination to support healthy aging and promote health equity,” added Cuevas. discrimination, discrimination definition, discriminant, discriminate, price discrimination, discrimination synonym, discriminant calculator, define discrimination, discriminant formula, stimulus discrimination, sex discrimination, institutional discrimination, discriminative stimulus, what is discrimination, gender discrimination, Anti-aging, Anti-aging Therapeutics, Black, Discrimination, DNA Methylation, Epigenetics, Equality, Equity, Molecular, NYU, Race, Racism, White

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