Social Stress, Epigenetics and Cardiometabolic Health Among Youth

Project: Research project

Project Details


Project Summary There is extensive evidence that economic and social stressors shape the development of cardiovascular disease starting early in the life course. However, it is largely unknown how social and economic stressors affect biological processes, particularly at the cellular level and whether these processes are evident among children and adolescents. Latinos, the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority group in the United States, have a high prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and experience higher rates of poverty and social stressors in both childhood and adulthood compared to other racial/ethnic groups. One novel method to evaluate possible mechanisms underlying the associations between stressors and cardiovascular health across the life course is DNA methylation. Recently a handful of small studies have found that stressful experiences may alter DNA methylation, thus providing a potential mechanism by which social stressors may get under the skin. We propose to examine the association between social stressors, in relation to DNA methylation, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) damage and cardiometabolic health, among children participating in the Hispanic Community Health Study /Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) Youth Study. The HCHS/SOL Youth study is a study of US Latinos, representing varied countries of origin, conducted in the US. We propose to use existing data from 1200 participants who completed the HCH/SOL Youth study and who provided blood samples. Existing blood samples will be assayed for DNA methylation age, genome-wide methylation and a mtDNA damage marker. Cardiometabolic health markers (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, inflammation and lipids) have also been assessed. Existing data also includes assessments of current family environment as well as socio-cultural factors among children. Specifically, we will examine 1) whether social and economic stressors are associated with DNA methylation age, mtDNA damage and genome-wide methylation; 2) whether DNA methylation age, genome-wide methylation and mtDNA damage is associated with cardiometabolic health among children and 3) whether socio-cultural factors (i.e, ethnic identity, parental closeness, place of birth) modify the association between social and economic stress and DNA methylation and mtDNA damage association. We will furthermore implement mendelian randomization techniques to address the cross-sectional nature of the data. Completion of this project would allow us to elucidate the impact social and economic stressors have on epigenetic and cardiometabolic markers that may help explain how stress shapes persistent population health disparities among Latino populations.
Effective start/end date5/17/212/28/23


  • National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities: $1,323,166.00
  • National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities: $600,644.00


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