DNA methylation has been proposed as an epigenetic mechanism by which the childhood neighborhood environment may have implications for the genome that compromise adult health..
..A total of 1619 participants (806 female individuals [50%]) had complete neighborhood and DNA methylation data. Children raised in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods exhibited differential DNA methylation in genes involved in inflammation (β = 0.12; 95% CI, 0.06-0.19; P < .001) and smoking (β = 0.18; 95% CI, 0.11-0.25; P < .001) but not obesity (β = 0.05; 95% CI, −0.01 to 0.11; P = .12). An epigenome-wide association study identified multiple CpG sites at an arraywide significance level of P < 1.16 × 10−7 in genes involved in the metabolism of hydrocarbons. Associations between neighborhood disadvantage and methylation were small but robust to family-level socioeconomic factors and to individual-level tobacco smoking.
Conclusions and Relevance Children raised in more socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods appeared to enter young adulthood epigenetically distinct from their less disadvantaged peers. This finding suggests that epigenetic regulation may be a mechanism by which the childhood neighborhood environment alters adult health.