Increased abdominal obesity, adverse psychosocial factors and shorter telomere length in subjects reporting early ageing; the MONICA Northern Sweden Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: The rate of biological ageing is individual and represents the steady decrease in physiological and mental functions. Adverse social factors have been shown to influence this process. Self-perceived early ageing (SEA) might be a useful indicator of early biological ageing and increased mortality risk. The aim of this population-based study was to identify markers of SEA, including telomere length. Methods: We studied 1502 subjects (744 men, 758 women) from Northern Sweden. These subjects underwent a physical examination, blood sampling (including telomere length) and completed a self-administered questionnaire about their subjective age, social situation, lifestyle, and self-rated health (SRH). Age- and SRH-adjusted statistical analyses were made comparing SEA subjects with same-sex controls. Results: In all, 7.9% of men and 12.1% of women reported SEA. These subjects had significantly (p < 0.0001) wider waist circumference and higher body mass index than controls. SEA men showed higher fasting glucose and SEA women showed higher total cholesterol levels than controls (p=0.020 and p=0.015, respectively). In addition, SEA women more often reported infrequent physical exercise (p=0.006), mental problems (p=0.064) and worse SRH (p=0.001) than controls. In a random sub-sample, telomere length was significantly shorter in SEA subjects (n=139) than controls (n=301; p=0.02), but not after full adjustment for BMI. Conclusions: Self-perceived early ageing is not uncommon and is associated with abdominal obesity, poor self-rated health, lower education, and shorter telomere length. This could link adverse social factors with features of the metabolic syndrome as well as with early biological ageing, of importance for targeting preventive programmes.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


  • social, smoking, self-perceived, ageing, metabolic syndrome, telomere, length
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)744-752
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch