Life course epidemiology

Idea: How do we identify and disentangle the biological and social factors that build on each other over the life course from gestation through to old age?

The references below mostly relate to “life course epidemiology,” that is, fetal and developmental origins of diseases in late life (Barker being generalized by Ben-Shlomo), in some tension with development over the life course (incl. Berney reviewing lifetime accumulation of hazards in relation to health in old age). In contrast to this approach, we have Brown on life course influences on depression (not necessarily in old age).  A pertinent question: In what ways could either side usefully draw methods, data, results from the other?

(This post continues a series laying out a sequence of basic ideas in thinking like epidemiologists, especially epidemiologists who pay attention to possible social influences on the development and unequal distribution of diseases and behaviors in populations [see first post in series and contribute to open-source curriculum].)


Barker, D. J. P. (1998). Mothers, Babies, and Health in Later Life. Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone.
Ben-Shlomo, Y. and D. Kuh (2002). “A life course approach to chronic disease epidemiology: Conceptual models, empirical challenges and interdisciplinary perspectives.” International Journal of Epidemiology 31: 285-293.
Berney, L., D. Blane, et al. (2000). Life course influences on health in old age. Understanding health inequalities. H. Graham. Buckingham [England], Open University Press: 79-95.
Brown, G. W. and T. O. Harris (1978). Sociology and the aetiology of depression; Depression and Loss; A Model of Depression; Summary and conclusions. Social Origins of Depression: a Study of Psychiatric Disorder in Women. New York, Free Press: 3-20; 233-293.
Davey-Smith, G. (2007). “Life-course approaches to inequalities in adult chronic disease risk.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 66: 216-236.
Krieger, N., J. T. Chen, et al. (2005b). “Lifetime socioeconomic position and twins’ health: An analysis of 308 pairs of United States women twins.” PLoS Med 2(7): e162.
Kuh, D., Y. Ben-Shlomo, et al. (2003). “Life course epidemiology.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 57: 778-783.
Lynch, J. and G. Davey-Smith (2005). “A Life Course Approach to Chronic Disease Epidemiology.” Annual Review of Public Health 26: 1-35.


One thought on “Life course epidemiology

  1. Pingback: Towards an agent-oriented focus to social epidemiology « Intersecting Processes

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