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Socioeconomic status and telomere length: the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study
  1. G D Batty1,2,
  2. Y Wang3,
  3. S W Brouilette4,
  4. P Shiels5,
  5. C Packard6,
  6. J Moore4,
  7. N J Samani4,
  8. I Ford3
  1. 1
    MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2
    The George Institute for International Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  3. 3
    Robertson Centre for Biostatistics, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  4. 4
    Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, UK
  5. 5
    Division of Cancer Sciences and Molecular Pathology, University of Glasgow, UK
  6. 6
    Department of Vascular Biochemistry, University of Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr G D Batty, MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK; david-b{at}


Background: It has been hypothesised that socioeconomically deprived people age more rapidly than their more advantaged counterparts and this is biologically manifest in shorter telomeres. However, in the very few studies conducted, substantial uncertainty exists regarding this relationship.

Methods: In the present investigation, 1542 men in the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study responded to a series of enquiries about their socioeconomic position (educational attainment, employment status, area-based deprivation), had their physical stature measured (a proxy for early life social circumstances) and provided a blood specimen from which leucocyte DNA was extracted and telomere length derived.

Results: There was no strong evidence that any of these four indices of socioeconomic position was robustly related to telomere length. The only exception was employment status: men who reported being out of work had significantly shorter telomeres than those who were employed (p = 0.007).

Conclusion: In this cross-sectional study—the largest to date to examine the relationship—we found little evidence of an association between socioeconomic status and telomere length.

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  • Funding This work was supported in part by a grant from the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust. NJS holds a Chair funded by the British Heart Foundation.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics Committee approval was received from the Local Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.