University of Oulu

Haapanen, M., Perälä, M., Salonen, M., Guzzardi, M., Iozzo, P., Kajantie, E., Rantanen, T., Simonen, M., Pohjolainen, P., Eriksson, J., von Bonsdorff, M. (2018) Telomere Length and Frailty: The Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. 19 (8), 658-662. doi:10.1016/j.jamda.2018.05.011

Telomere length and frailty : the Helsinki birth cohort study

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Author: Haapanen, Markus J.1,2; Perälä, Mia-Maria2,3; Salonen, Minna K.2,3;
Organizations: 1Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
2Folkhälsan Research Center, Helsinki, Finland
3Department of Public Health Solutions, Chronic Disease Prevention Unit, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
4Institute of Clinical Physiology, National Research Council (CNR), Pisa, Italy
5Hospital for Children and Adolescents, Helsinki University Central Hospital and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
6PEDEGO Research Unit, MRC Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
7Gerontology Research Center, Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
8Finnish Centre of Excellence in Intersubjectivity in Interaction, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
9Age Institute, Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2018
Publish Date: 2019-06-28


Objectives: Telomere length is associated with aging-related pathologies. Although the association between telomere length and frailty has been studied previously, only a few studies assessing longitudinal changes in telomere length and frailty exist.

Design: Longitudinal cohort study.

Setting and participants: A subpopulation of the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study consisting of 1078 older adults aged 67 to 79 years born in Helsinki, Finland, between 1934 and 1944.

Measures: Relative leukocyte telomere length (LTL) was measured using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction at the average ages of 61 and 71 years, and at the latter the participants were assessed for frailty according to Fried criteria.

Results: The mean ± SD relative LTLs were 1.40 ± 0.29 (average age 61 years) and 0.86 ± 0.30 (average age 71 years) for the cohort. A trend of shorter mean relative LTL across frailty groups was observed at 61 years (P = .016) and at 71 years (P = .057). Relative LTL at age 61 years was significantly associated with frailty: per 1-unit increase in relative LTL, the corresponding relative risk ratio (RRR) of frailty was 0.28 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.08–0.97), adjusting for several confounders. Also, LTL at age 71 years was associated with frailty (RRR 0.18, 95% CI 0.04–0.81) after adjustment for sex, age, and adult socioeconomic status, but further adjustment attenuated the association. No associations between telomere shortening and frailty were observed during the 10-year follow-up.

Conclusions: Shorter relative LTL was associated with frailty in cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses, but telomere shortening was not, suggesting that short LTL may be a biomarker of frailty.

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Series: Journal of the American Medical Directors Association
ISSN: 1538-9375
ISSN-E: 1525-8610
ISSN-L: 1538-9375
Volume: 19
Issue: 8
Pages: 658 - 662
DOI: 10.1016/j.jamda.2018.05.011
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3111 Biomedicine
Funding: The Helsinki Birth Cohort Study was supported by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research, Finnish Foundation for Diabetes Research, Finnish Foundation for Pediatric Research, Juha Vainio Foundation, Novo Nordisk Foundation, Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, Samfundet Folkhälsan, Finska Läkaresällskapet, Liv och Hälsa, European Commission FP7 (DORIAN) grant agreement no. 278603, and EU H2020-PHC-2014-DynaHealth grant no. 633595. The Academy of Finland supported MBvB (grant no. 257239); EK (grant nos. 127437, 129306, 130326, 134791, 263924, and 274794); and JGE (grant nos. 129369, 129907, 135072, 129255, and 126775). The sponsors did not play a role in the design, choice of methods, subject recruitment, data collection, analysis or preparation of the paper.
EU Grant Number: (633595) DYNAHEALTH - Understanding the dynamic determinants of glucose homeostasis and social capability to promote Healthy and active aging
Copyright information: © 2018 AMDA - The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (