University of Oulu

Suarez, A., Lahti, J., Czamara, D., Lahti-Pulkkinen, M., Girchenko, P., Andersson, S., Strandberg, T., Reynolds, R., Kajantie, E., Binder, E., Raikkonen, K. (2018) The epigenetic clock and pubertal, neuroendocrine, psychiatric, and cognitive outcomes in adolescents. Clinical Epigenetics, 10 (1), doi:10.1186/s13148-018-0528-6

The epigenetic clock and pubertal, neuroendocrine, psychiatric, and cognitive outcomes in adolescents

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Author: Suarez, Anna1,2; Lahti, Jari1; Czamara, Darina3;
Organizations: 1Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, Haartmaninkatu 3, PO Box 21, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland
2Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
3Department of Translational Research in Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry, 80804 Munich, Germany
4Children’s Hospital, Helsinki University Central Hospital and University of Helsinki, 00029 Helsinki, Finland
5Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Helsinki, Geriatrics, Helsinki University Hospital, University of Oulu, 00029 Helsinki, Finland
6BHF Centre for Cardiovascular Science, Queen’s Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH16 4TJ, UK
7National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki and Oulu, 00271 Helsinki, Finland
8Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, 30322, USA
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-09-17


Background: Molecular aging biomarkers, such as epigenetic age predictors, predict risk factors of premature aging, and morbidity/mortality more accurately than chronological age in middle-aged and elderly populations. Yet, it remains elusive if such biomarkers are associated with aging-related outcomes earlier in life when individuals begin to diverge in aging trajectories. We tested if the Horvath epigenetic age predictor is associated with pubertal, neuroendocrine, psychiatric, and cognitive aging-related outcomes in a sample of 239 adolescents, 11.0–13.2 years-old.

Results: Each year increase in epigenetic age acceleration (AA) was associated with 0.06 SD units higher weight-for-age, 0.08 SD units taller height-for-age, −0.09 SD units less missed from the expected adult height, 13 and 16% higher odds, respectively, for each stage increase in breast/genitals development on the Tanner Staging Questionnaire and pubertal stage on the Pubertal Development Scale, 4.2% higher salivary cortisol upon awakening, and 18 to 34% higher odds for internalizing and thought problems on the Child Behavior Checklist (p values <  0.045). AA was not significantly associated with cognition.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that already in adolescence, AA is associated with physiological age acceleration, which may index risk of earlier aging. AA may identify individuals for preventive interventions decades before aging-related diseases become manifest.

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Series: Clinical epigenetics
ISSN: 1868-7075
ISSN-E: 1868-7083
ISSN-L: 1868-7075
Volume: 10
Article number: 96
DOI: 10.1186/s13148-018-0528-6
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3111 Biomedicine
314 Health sciences
Funding: The GLAKU study is funded by the Academy of Finland, EraNetNeuron, EVO, University of Helsinki Research Funds, the Signe and Ane Gyllenberg, Emil Aaltonen, Novo Nordisk, Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg, and Sigrid Juselius, the Finnish Medical and the British Heart Foundation, the European Commission Horizon 2020 Award SC1-2016-RTD-733280 RECAP and the Doctoral Programme of Psychology, Learning and Communication.
Copyright information: © The Author(s). 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.