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Extended Unemployment Time Tied to Accelerated Aging in Men

Update Date: Nov 21, 2013 03:30 PM EST

Due to economic downturns, the unemployment rates in certain areas of the world have continued to remain relatively high. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of being unemployment for men and women. The research team from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom and the University of Oulu in Finland examined DNA samples. They found that for men in particular who dealt with long-term unemployment, their DNA samples revealed accelerated aging.

The research team had access to DNA samples that were collected in 1997 from 5,620 Finnish men and women who were born in 1966. At the time when the samples were collected, the participants were all 31-years-old. The researchers measured telomeres, which exist at the ends of chromosomes in DNA. The telomeres are responsible for protecting the genetic code and become shorter throughout a person's lifetime. Due to the fact that telomeres shorten over time, researchers have used them as biological markers of aging,

After recording individual telomere lengths in blood cells, the researchers found that men who were unemployed for more than two years were two times more likely to have short telomeres in comparison to men who were employed. The team took multiple variables, such as social, biological and behavioral factors into account. The researchers reported that the relationship between unemployment and telomere lengths in women was not noticeable.

"There has been lots of research linking long-term unemployment with ill health. This is the first study to show this type of effect at a cellular level. These findings raise concerns about the long-term effects of joblessness in early adulthood. Keeping people in work should be an essential part of general health promotion," commented Dr. Leena Ala-Mursula from the University of Oulu.

Dr. Jessica Buxton from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, added according to the press release, "Shorter telomeres are linked to higher risk of various age-related diseases and earlier death. Stressful life experiences in childhood and adulthood have previously been linked to accelerated telomere shortening. We have now shown that long-term unemployment may cause premature ageing too."

The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust and published in PLOS ONE.

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