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Soc Sci Med. 2016 May;157:60-7. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.03.029. Epub 2016 Mar 22.

Marital disruption is associated with shorter salivary telomere length in a probability sample of older adults.

Author information

1
University of Colorado Boulder, USA. Electronic address: mark.whisman@colorado.edu.
2
University of Colorado Boulder, USA.
3
University of Arizona, USA.

Abstract

RATIONALE:

Marital disruption (i.e., marital separation, divorce) is associated with a wide range of poor mental and physical health outcomes, including increased risk for all-cause mortality. One biological intermediary that may help explain the association between marital disruption and poor health is accelerated cellular aging.

OBJECTIVE:

This study examines the association between marital disruption and salivary telomere length in a United States probability sample of adults ≥50 years of age.

METHOD:

Participants were 3526 individuals who participated in the 2008 wave of the Health and Retirement Study. Telomere length assays were performed using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) on DNA extracted from saliva samples. Health and lifestyle factors, traumatic and stressful life events, and neuroticism were assessed via self-report. Linear regression analyses were conducted to examine the associations between predictor variables and salivary telomere length.

RESULTS:

Based on their marital status data in the 2006 wave, people who were separated or divorced had shorter salivary telomeres than people who were continuously married or had never been married, and the association between marital disruption and salivary telomere length was not moderated by gender or neuroticism. Furthermore, the association between marital disruption and salivary telomere length remained statistically significant after adjusting for demographic and socioeconomic variables, neuroticism, cigarette use, body mass, traumatic life events, and other stressful life events. Additionally, results revealed that currently married adults with a history of divorce evidenced shorter salivary telomeres than people who were continuously married or never married.

CONCLUSION:

Accelerated cellular aging, as indexed by telomere shortening, may be one pathway through which marital disruption is associated with morbidity and mortality.

KEYWORDS:

Cellular aging; Divorce; Marital disruption; Marital separation; Telomere; United States

PMID:
27062452
PMCID:
PMC4883574
DOI:
10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.03.029
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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