Description: This is a multiauthored book on the epidemiological study of the life course, relating natal characteristics, human development, socioeconomic status, and various other life exposures to the health and functional outcomes of older persons, particularly physical, social, and psychological characteristics, as well as some consideration of disease events and overall health trajectories.
Purpose: Life course research is, by its nature, holistic and encompassing. This book provides a modern and useful conceptual introduction to life course epidemiology and aging outcomes.
Audience: It is most appropriate for epidemiologists, gerontologists, and other scientists from a wide range of disciplines that contribute to understanding the pathways to and promotion of healthy aging.
Features: The book offers a clear set of methodological discussions on conducting cohort studies, collecting personal narratives, and applying selected, modern statistical approaches to analyzing longitudinal life course data. Some potential biological mechanisms for relating life course and development to aging outcomes, such as genetics, epigenetics and biomarkers of various body systems, are considered. Detailed examples of "exposures" are presented to illustrate important directions in this field, such as personal exercise practices and the residential environment. It is well illustrated and provides useful diagrams that portray the issues of assessing life course change and aging outcomes.
Assessment: This is part of a series on dimensions of life course epidemiology. Others in the series cover such issues as women's health, chronic illness, and mental disorders. The issues addressed here are treated fairly and comprehensively. This is a young but promising subdiscipline. Often missing, however, is detailed life course information because of logistical difficulties in collecting and documenting physiological, clinical, and social events across the lifespan. While the early focus on events around the time of birth and early development is of great interest, exposures across the entire life course beg for more research. For example: What educational practices best prepare our children for healthy aging? What happens to the 20 percent of persons who have incident mental illness, usually by the age of 25 years? How do injuries from the workplace, auto crashes, military service, or sports participation affect functional aging? What are the aging effects of large scale incarceration? And, perhaps equally important, what are the natal, developmental, and related forces that prevent a substantial proportion of persons from ever reaching old age?