Psychological Stress and Social Environment May Influence Epigenetic Aging in Latinx Immigrants

2 men in tribal photo | Psychological Stress and Social Environment May Influence Epigenetic Aging in Latinx Immigrants | Feature

The Latinx population is the largest and fastest-growing racial-ethnic minority group in the United States, and much of this growth was due to immigration.

According to the results of a previous study, Hispanics have lower intrinsic but higher extrinsic epigenetic aging rates than Caucasians. Taking sex into consideration, men, in particular, have higher epigenetic aging rates than women in blood, saliva, and brain tissue.

Genetic variants and environmental factors play individual and important roles in determining stable and dynamic DNA methylation patterns. Exposure to stress can modify DNA methylation, which may alter gene expression and therefore contribute to disease phenotypes.

Severe social stressors or adversities experienced in childhood may become embodied by leaving lasting signatures on children’s epigenomes. Rising health differentials can be explained by exposure to psychosocial stressors, including fear of deportation, family separation, financial stressors, and racism and discrimination. These threats to the stability of Latinx families, in addition to the current US immigration policy, have been linked with increased mental and health problems, especially for undocumented Latinx immigrants.

In this study, researchers hypothesized that higher psychosocial stressors and lower resilience factors would associate with increased epigenetic age.

Read the original publication of this study here: [ Epigenetic age associates with psychosocial stress and resilience in children of Latinx immigrants ]

This study aimed to investigate associations of psychosocial stressors and resilience factors with DNA methylation age in the saliva of Latinx children of immigrants before and after the 2016 presidential election (2015–2018).

Latinx boy smiling on fence background | Psychological Stress and Social Environment May Influence Epigenetic Aging in Latinx Immigrants | relevant picture

 

Epigenetic age associates with psychosocial stress and resilience in children of Latinx immigrants

Researchers examined associations of psychosocial stressors and resilience factors with epigenetic age estimates and epigenome-wide DNA methylation patterns in the saliva of children of Latinx immigrants before and after the 2016 US Presidential election.

An earlier study further supports that fear and worry about the personal consequences of current US immigration policy and rhetoric appear to be associated with sleep problems, blood pressure changes, and higher anxiety levels among US-born Latino adolescents, which have significantly increased after the US presidential election 2016.

In this study, the researchers examined all psychosocial factors concerning four different measures of epigenetic age – Horvath’s pan-tissue estimate (DNAmAge), Hannum, Pediatric-Buccal-Epigenetic (PedBE), and the Skin and Blood clocks.

Participants involved self-identified Latina women above age 18 with a child between the ages of 6 and 13 years. Most participant’s mothers were born in Mexico (87.3%), were undocumented (84.5%), were married (84.5%), and were not smokers (97.8%).

The saliva test results showed children were on average 1.9 years older than at pre-election, with a mean age of 10.5 years and all other demographics were largely similar over time.

Some pre-election findings supported associations with increased epigenetic age with stress and decreased with resilience.

However, post-election results showed decreased epigenetic age (and decreased rate of change in epigenetic age) with some stressors and increased epigenetic age (and increased rate of change in epigenetic age) with some resilience factors.

These research findings suggest more stress exposures proceed slower child development at a later time point. Over time, researchers found minimal changes in DNA methylation.

Despite the limitation in the sample size, this study design provides novel hypotheses regarding how the social environment may influence epigenetic aging and genome-wide methylation, potentially contributing to racial/ethnic health inequalities. If replicated across racial/ethnic groups, our findings suggest both psychosocial stress and resilience factors may be relevant contributors to racial disparities in health and aging.

 

Takeaways:

  •  Some pre-election findings supported associations with increased epigenetic age with stress and decreased resilience.
  • Findings possibly indicate slower child development with more stress exposures at a later time point.
  • Psychosocial stress and resilience factors may be relevant contributors to racial disparities in health and aging through epigenetic mechanisms.

 

You can read the original publication of this study here: [ Epigenetic age associates with psychosocial stress and resilience in children of Latinx immigrants ]

  1. The Health of Undocumented Latinx Immigrants: What We Know and Future Directions
  2. Association of Perceived Immigration Policy Vulnerability With Mental and Physical Health Among US-Born Latino Adolescents in California
  3. Acculturative Stress Among Documented and Undocumented Latino Immigrants in the United States

More To Explore