New research from the University of Copenhagen has found that people who have lived below the relative poverty threshold four or more times in their adult life age significantly earlier than others.
Genetics, lifestyle and environment are all factors that influence when and how we all age. But the financial situation is also important.
The researchers found that living four or more years with an income below the relative poverty threshold in adult life makes a significant difference as to when the body begins to show signs of ageing.
To learn more about the context, the researchers tested 5500 middle-aged persons, using various ageing markers including physical capability, cognitive function and level of inflammation.
The results were then compared with the participants’ income throughout the 22 years leading up to the test. An annual income of 60 per cent below the median income was considered relative poverty.
In this way, the researchers found that there is a significant correlation between financial challenges and early ageing.
“Early ageing also means more treatment at an earlier age, and it is a burden both to the individual and the society,” explained study co-author Professor Rikke Lund.
“We show that poor finances are a strong indicator of early ageing; this knowledge can be used to prevent the problems.
“Many people do not necessarily experience any noticeably poorer physical capability until they are growing older and are therefore not aware that their bodies have begun to age prematurely. This means that there will be no focus on preventative measures until it is too late.”
Among other things, the researchers measured the participants’ grip strength, how many times they could get up from and sit on a chair in 30 seconds, and how high they could jump. The cognitive tests included tasks of memorising sequences.
“There is a significant difference between the test results. People who have been below the relative poverty threshold for four or more years in their adult life perform significantly worse than those who have never been below the threshold,” Prof. Lund explained.
The results showed, among other things, that the financially challenged group, relative to the comparison group, could get up and sit down two times fewer per 30 seconds, and that their grip strength was reduced by 1.2 kilograms.
In addition, the researchers measured the inflammatory level of the participants. A high inflammatory level is a sign that the body is in a state of alert and can likewise be used as a marker for illness and ageing. The study shows that the financially challenged also had higher inflammatory levels.
Have you had times in your life where you have experienced financial hardship? How many times have you been in this situation? Do you think you have aged faster as a result?
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