Acculturation Predicts Negative Affect and Shortened Telomere Length.
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Chronic stress may accelerate cellular aging. Telomeres, protective "caps" at the end of chromosomes, modulate cellular aging and may be good biomarkers for the effects of chronic stress, including that associated with acculturation. The purpose of this analysis was to examine telomere length (TL) in acculturating Hispanic Mexican American women and to determine the associations among TL, acculturation, and psychological factors. As part of a larger cross-sectional study of 516 pregnant Hispanic Mexican American women, we analyzed DNA in blood samples ( N = 56) collected at 22-24 weeks gestation for TL as an exploratory measure using monochrome multiplex quantitative telomere polymerase chain reaction (PCR). We measured acculturation with the Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans, depression with the Beck Depression Inventory, discrimination with the Experiences of Discrimination Scale, and stress with the Perceived Stress Scale. TL was negatively moderately correlated with two variables of acculturation: Anglo orientation and greater acculturation-level scores. We combined these scores for a latent variable, acculturation, and we combined depression, stress, and discrimination scores in another latent variable, "negative affectivity." Acculturation and negative affectivity were bidirectionally correlated. Acculturation significantly negatively predicted TL. Using structural equation modeling, we found the model had an excellent fit with the root mean square error of approximation estimate = .0001, comparative fit index = 1.0, Tucker-Lewis index = 1.0, and standardized root mean square residual = .05. The negative effects of acculturation on the health of Hispanic women have been previously demonstrated. Findings from this analysis suggest a link between acculturation and TL, which may indicate accelerated cellular aging associated with overall poor health outcomes.