Telomere length and chronological age across the human lifespan: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 414 study samples including 743,019 individuals

Qiaofeng Ye, Abner T. Apsley, Laura Etzel, Waylon J. Hastings, John T. Kozlosky, Cade Walker, Sarah E. Wolf, Idan Shalev

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Telomere attrition is a proposed hallmark of aging. To evaluate the association of telomere length (TL) with chronological age across the human lifespan, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 414 study samples comprising 743,019 individuals aged 0–112 years. We examined both cross-sectional and longitudinal data, and evaluated the impact of various biological and methodological factors including sex, health status, tissue types, DNA extraction procedures, and TL measurement methods. The pooled corrected correlation between TL and age from cross-sectional samples was −0.19 (95%CI: −0.22 to −0.15), which weakened with increased chronological age (β = 0.003, p < 0.001). Z-score change rates of TL across the lifespan showed a gradual decrease in shortening rate until around age 50 and remained at a relatively stable rate towards the elderly period. A greater attrition rate was observed in longitudinal than cross-sectional evaluations. For TL measured in base pairs, the median change rate of TL was −23 bp/year in cross-sectional samples and −38 bp/year in longitudinal samples. Methodological factors including TL measurement methods and tissue types impacted the TL-age correlation, while sex or disease status did not. This meta-analysis revealed the non-linear shortening trend of TL across the human lifespan and provides a reference value for future studies. Results also highlight the importance of methodological considerations when using TL as an aging biomarker.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102031
JournalAgeing Research Reviews
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Aging
  • Molecular Biology
  • Neurology

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