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The last two decades of life course epidemiology, and its relevance for research on ageing

Ben-Shlomo, Y; Cooper, R; Kuh, D; (2016) The last two decades of life course epidemiology, and its relevance for research on ageing. International Journal of Epidemiology , 45 (4) pp. 973-988. 10.1093/ije/dyw096. Green open access

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Abstract

The term ‘life course epidemiology’ was coined in 1997 with the publication of the first edition of A Life Course Approach to Chronic Disease Epidemiology.1 This book reviewed the pre-adult risk factors for cardiometabolic and respiratory disease, the catalyst being the imaginative research on the fetal origins of adult disease being driven forward at that time by Professor David Barker. We defined life course epidemiology as ‘the study of long-term biological, behavioural and psychosocial processes that link adult health and disease risk to physical or social exposures acting during gestation, childhood, adolescence, earlier in adult life or across generations’.1 Although our definition of life course epidemiology has stood the test of time, the field has evolved and there have been conceptual developments, methodological innovations which facilitate efforts to test these concepts, and an increasing corpus of empirical research demonstrating how factors from earlier life are associated with later life health and disease, as well as the pathways and biological mechanisms that may be involved. These developments have generated further ideas and challenges to life course models in an iterative process. As the theme of this special issue suggests, one important development has been the gradual shift of research focus from clinical disease endpoints to multi-faceted traits and longitudinal trajectories of functional phenotypes that can be assessed well before any clinical threshold is reached. This has naturally led on to the application of a life course epidemiological approach to ageing. The purpose of this overview is therefore to assess the development and current state of the field of life course epidemiology, including its recent application to the study of ageing as the focus of this special issue.

Type: Article
Title: The last two decades of life course epidemiology, and its relevance for research on ageing
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyw096
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyw096
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author 2016; Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1530263
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