Are macular drusen in midlife a marker of accelerated biological ageing?

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Clinical relevance

Macular drusen are associated with age-related maculopathy but are not an ocular manifestation or biomarker of systemic ageing.


Macular drusen are the first sign of age-related maculopathy, an eye disease for which age is the strongest risk factor. The aim of this cohort study was to investigate whether macular drusen in midlife - a sign of the earliest stages of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - are associated with accelerated biological ageing more generally.


Members of the long-running Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (hereafter the Dunedin Study, n = 1037) underwent retinal photography at their most recent assessment at the age of 45 years. Images were graded for the presence of AMD using a simplified scale from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). Accelerated ageing was assessed by (i) a measure of Pace of Ageing defined from a combination of clinical and serum biomarkers obtained at ages 26, 32, 38, and 45 years and (ii) Facial Ageing, defined from photographs obtained at age 38 and 45 years.


Of the 938 participants who participated at the age 45 assessments, 834 had gradable retinal photographs, and of these 165 (19.8%) had macular drusen. There was no significant difference in Pace of Ageing (p = .743) or Facial Ageing (p = .945) among participants with and without macular drusen.


In this representative general population sample, macular drusen in midlife were not associated with accelerated ageing. Future studies tracking longitudinal changes in drusen number and severity at older ages may reveal whether drusen are a biomarker of accelerated ageing.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wilson, GA; Cheyne, K; Ramrakha, S; Ambler, A; Tan, GS; Caspi, A; Williams, B; Sugden, K; Houts, R; Niederer, RL; Wong, TY; Moffitt, TE; Poulton, R

Published Date

  • January 2023

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 106 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 41 - 46

PubMed ID

  • 34902293

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1444-0938

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0816-4622

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/08164622.2021.2012428


  • eng