Research on Epigenetics, Weathering, and Residential Disadvantage (REWARD)
Michal Engelman - University of Wisconsin-Madison
The REWARD study asks whether and how exposure to neighborhood-level disadvantage shapes health inequities via epigenetic mechanisms. REWARD draws on data from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW), a uniquely rich dataset that combines social and health survey measures with residential histories spanning up to five decades, spatio-temporally linked neighborhood conditions, and epigenetic clocks constructed based on DNA methylation in whole blood. We develop and compare approaches to assessing cumulative contextual (dis)advantage and examine patterns of exposure across cohorts, racial groups, and geographic locations in Wisconsin, a state that encompasses both racially segregated urban centers and rural regions with primarily white and rapidly aging populations. We find both geographic and racial differences in exposure to cumulative contextual disadvantage as well as the exposure's relationship to epigenetic markers of accelerated aging.