A1 Journal article (refereed)
Do Epigenetic Clocks Provide Explanations for Sex Differences in Life Span? : A Cross-Sectional Twin Study (2022)

Kankaanpää, A., Tolvanen, A., Saikkonen, P., Heikkinen, A., Laakkonen, E. K., Kaprio, J., Ollikainen, M., & Sillanpää, E. (2022). Do Epigenetic Clocks Provide Explanations for Sex Differences in Life Span? : A Cross-Sectional Twin Study. Journals of Gerontology Series A : Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 77(9), 1898-1906. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glab337

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Publication details

All authors or editors: Kankaanpää, Anna; Tolvanen, Asko; Saikkonen, Pirkko; Heikkinen, Aino; Laakkonen, Eija K; Kaprio, Jaakko; Ollikainen, Miina; Sillanpää, Elina

Journal or series: Journals of Gerontology Series A : Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences

ISSN: 1079-5006

eISSN: 1758-535X

Publication year: 2022

Publication date: 09/11/2021

Volume: 77

Issue number: 9

Pages range: 1898-1906

Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)

Publication country: United States

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glab337

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Partially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/82830

Web address of parallel published publication (pre-print): https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.02.23.21252194v1


The sex gap in life expectancy has been narrowing in Finland over the past four to five decades; however, on average, women still live longer than men. Epigenetic clocks are markers for biological aging that predict lifespan. In this study, we examined the mediating role of lifestyle factors on the association between sex and biological aging in younger and older adults.

Our sample consists of younger and older twins (21‒42-y, n = 1477; 50‒76-y, n = 763) including 151 complete younger opposite-sex twin pairs (21‒30-y). Blood-based DNA methylation (DNAm) was used to compute epigenetic age acceleration by four epigenetic clocks as a measure of biological aging. Path modelling was used to study whether the association between sex and biological aging is mediated through lifestyle-related factors, i.e. education, body mass index, smoking, alcohol use, and physical activity.

In comparison to women, men were biologically older and, in general, they had unhealthier life habits. The effect of sex on biological aging was partly mediated by body mass index and, in older twins, by smoking. Sex was directly associated with biological aging and the association was stronger in older twins.

Previously reported sex differences in lifespan are also evident in biological aging. Declining smoking prevalence among men is a plausible explanation for the narrowing of the difference in life expectancy between the sexes. Data generated by the epigenetic clocks may help in estimating the effects of lifestyle and environmental factors on aging and in predicting aging in future generations.

Keywords: ageing; lifetime (age); gender differences; epigenetics; DNA methylation; lifestyle habits

Free keywords: DNA methylation; sex gap; lifestyle; lifespan; biological age

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Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2022

JUFO rating: 3

Last updated on 2023-30-08 at 09:49