The Life Course, Biology, and Health

Mary Elizabeth Hughes, Duke University
Linda Waite, University of Chicago
Louise Hawkley, University of Chicago
John T. Cacioppo, University of Chicago

Although a small but critical mass of studies now links social factors to a set of general biological markers of chronic stress, we know much less about the processes by which social life “gets under the skin” over time. In this paper, we consider these processes. Our general aim is to leverage the state of the art in both life course studies and social neuroscience to produce a more nuanced model of the links between social experience and long term health. We will begin by developing a conceptual framework linking the lifetime patterning of social and biological processes. We will then apply this model to the life course phenomenon of marital biography -- an individual’s history of marital states and transitions. Using data from the first year of the Chicago Health, Aging and Social Relations Study we will examine the links between marital biography and biomarkers of long term health.

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Presented in Session 19: Demography and Life Course Studies