Does salivary telomere length explain race/ethnic differences in aging?

Lauren Brown, Catherine García, Jennifer Ailshire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Telomere length (TL) is a biomarker that can be used to characterize variability in aging and may explain race/ethnic differences in aging. Yet, it remains unclear if TL is related to aging-associated health risks in multi-ethnic populations or if it explains race/ethnic differences in health. We examine whether salivary TL (STL) explains any of the race/ethnic variability in 15 indicators of high-risk biological, physical, and cognitive health among 4,074 White, Black, and Latinx older adults ages 54+ in the 2008 Health and Retirement Study. TL was assayed from saliva using quantitative PCR (T/S ratio). Decomposition analyses from logistic regression models show variation in STL does not account for any of the observed race/ethnic differences health. In age-adjusted, race-stratified models, STL was associated with HDL, total cholesterol, and lung function among Whites, but was not associated with any markers of health among Black or Latinx groups. In this diverse national sample of older adults, STL does not account for race/ethnic differences in late life health, is associated with relatively few indicators of health among Whites, and is not associated with indicators of health among Black or Latinx groups. STL may not be a useful biomarker for understanding racial/ethnic differences in population aging among older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-369
Number of pages19
JournalBiodemography and Social Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • aging
  • biomarkers
  • ethnicity
  • race
  • telomere length

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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