Are housing circumstances associated with faster epigenetic ageing?

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Background Numerous aspects of housing are associated with health. However, the pathways between housing and health, particularly the psychosocial elements of housing, are less well understood. Epigenetic information alongside social survey data offers an opportunity to explore biological ageing, measured using DNA methylation, as a potential pathway through which housing affects health. Methods We use data on housing and DNA methylation from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, linked with prior survey responses from the British Household Panel Survey, covering adults in Great Britain. We explore the association between epigenetic ageing and housing circumstances, both contemporary and historical, using hierarchical regression. Results We find that living in a privately rented home is related to faster biological ageing. Importantly, the impact of private renting (coefficient (SE) 0.046 years (0.011) vs owned outright, p<0.001) is greater than the impact of experiencing unemployment (coefficient 0.027 years (0.012) vs employed, p<0.05) or being a former smoker (coefficient 0.021 years (0.005) vs never smoker, p<0.001). When we include historical housing circumstances in the analysis, we find that repeated housing arrears and exposure to pollution/environmental problems are also associated with faster biological ageing. Conclusion Our results suggest that challenging housing circumstances negatively affect health through faster biological ageing. However, biological ageing is reversible, highlighting the significant potential for housing policy changes to improve health.




Clair, A., Baker, E., & Kumari, M. (2023). Are housing circumstances associated with faster epigenetic ageing? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 78(1), 40–46.

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