Faster aging is often linked to an unhealthy lifestyle, poor sleep and eating habits, and stress. Researchers have now discovered that discrimination could be a factor that could accelerate aging.

Earlier studies have shown that people who experience discrimination based on their identity, which may be their race, gender, weight, or disability, face negative health effects, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.

According to the latest study led by researchers at the NYU School of Global Public Health, interpersonal discrimination is linked to molecular-level changes that speed up aging.

"Experiencing discrimination appears to hasten the process of aging, which may be contributing to disease and early mortality and fueling health disparities," said Adolfo Cuevas, a senior author of the study.

To analyze the link between discrimination and aging, researchers collected blood samples from nearly 2,000 U.S. adults who were part of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study. They then assessed three measures of DNA methylation, a marker that evaluates the biological impacts of stress and the aging process.

Through surveys, researchers measured three forms of discrimination faced by the participants: every day, major, and workplace. While everyday discrimination includes minor instances of disrespect in daily life, major discrimination is an instance of acute and intense discrimination. Workplace discrimination can be unfair practices, stunted professional opportunities, and punishments based on identity.

"The researchers found that discrimination was linked to accelerated biological aging, with people who reported more discrimination aging faster biologically compared to those who experienced less discrimination. Everyday and major discrimination were consistently associated with biological aging, while exposure to discrimination in the workplace was also linked to accelerated aging, but its impact was comparatively less severe," the news release stated.

The researchers noted that differences in smoking behavior and body mass index accounted for about half of this relationship.

The study also made another interesting finding: although Black participants experienced more discrimination and faster biological aging, white participants were more susceptible to the impacts of discrimination when they experienced it. The researchers believe that it is perhaps because they have less frequent exposure and fewer coping strategies.

"These findings underscore the importance of addressing all forms of discrimination to support healthy aging and promote health equity," Cuevas added.