People age more quickly if they have bad diets and low income, according to research published in the journal Public Library of Science One.
Experts examining the DNA of a group of adults aged 35-65 in Glasgow looked at the length of telomeres - structures found at the end of chromosomes which shorten as people get older.
In a 10-year period, people’s telomeres shortened by 7.7% on average in those whose income was beneath £25,000. However, for those on higher incomes, telomeres shortened by an average of 0.6%.
Dr Paul Shiels, of the Institute of Cancer Sciences at Glasgow University, said: “(Telomeres) act like the plastic caps on the end of your shoelaces: they protect the chromosomes and stop them fraying. Their ability to protect the chromosomes decreases as the body ages, with the length of the telomere gradually shortening. The rate at which the shortening occurs can be increased in disease and can be increased by other stresses.
“We show that accelerated ageing is associated with deprivation and poor diet in Glasgow. This is most prevalent in the over-55s and those with household incomes under £25,000. This effect is exacerbated by diet: simply not eating your five portions of fruit and veg a day.”