Examining the Effects of Stress on Epigenetic Aging and Health Outcomes by Race/Ethnicity: The Health and Retirement Study

Authors: Ninette Westendorff, Bathsheba Aklilu

Faculty Supervisor: Cathy Samayoa

Department: Biology

Stress is a key determinant of health and well-being. Health disparities by race/ethnicity exist and may be due to exposure to chronic stress. Age-associated DNA methylation alterations, also known as epigenetic clocks or DNAm Age, include GrimAge, and have been observed and can be used to estimate biological age and premature aging. However, the biological mechanisms by which chronic exposures to stressors give rise to racial and ethnic health disparities remain unclear. The goal of this study is to examine the effects of stressors on epigenetic aging (GrimAge) and health outcomes by race and ethnicity. This study will use data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative longitudinal study of U.S. adults over the age of 50. Using R, we will estimate the relationships between exposure to stress and epigenetic aging as well as the associations between epigenetic age and health outcomes. Examining the impact of stressors of epigenetic aging among racial and ethnic minorities is crucial for understanding and addressing health disparities. Understanding the relationships between chronic stressors and epigenetic aging will inform targeted interventions for health equity.