Scientists have developed a new test of aging process based on DNA evidence. They have said it could provide faster feedback on public health measures.
Glasgow Centre for Population Health work has confirmed the link between social factors and the rate at which people age.
The scientists measured the length of telomeres, the tails on the ends of chromosomes, in sample groups in the Glasgow area.
The Telomeres tend to become shorter over a person's lifetime, indicating the speed of the ageing process.
The Glasgow researchers found that, over a 10-year period, telomeres shortened by an average of 7.7 pc in people whose household income was below 25,000 pounds. For those on higher incomes, the shortening averaged 0.6 pc.
A similar trend in telomere lengths was found in comparisons of those in rented housing with homeowners, and of those with the poorest diets and those who ate well.
"We show that accelerated ageing is associated with social status and deprivation in Glasgow," the BBC quoted Dr Paul Shiels, of the Institute of Cancer Studies at Glasgow University, as saying.
"This is most prevalent in the over-55s and those with household incomes under 25,000 pounds.
"This effect is exacerbated by diet - simply not eating your five portions of fruit and veg a day," added Shiels.
Shiels said: "Its value is at a population level, where large numbers of subjects allow us to observe trends over a period of time.
"It is a tool for looking at the impact of changes in diet, for example.
"This study is a first for Glasgow and indicates that socio-economic conditions do affect the rate at which you age," Shiels added.
The findings have been published in the Public Library of Science.