Quirks & Quarks

Poverty Erodes DNA in Children

9-year-old children raised in disadvantaged circumstances show signs of damage to their DNA....

Growing up in socially stressful environments that include poverty, violence and unstable family relationships can affect the DNA of children as young as 9 years old. Dr. Daniel Notterman, a physician and Molecular Biologist with Pennsylvania State University and Princeton University, led a study that has showed that 9-year-old boys from socially disadvantaged households had shorter telomeres than those from relatively advantaged backgrounds. Telomeres are sequences of protective DNA at the end of chromosomes that erode with age and stress. Shorter telomeres are correlated with accelerated aging, and increased risk of disease and death. Dr. Notterman suggests that this may argue for early intervention programs for disadvantaged children, to avoid the biological risks of deprivation.

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