Aging, Health Behaviors, and Health Outcomes

By K. Warner Schaie; Dan Blazer et al. | Go to book overview
priate at a given age. Thus, when patterns of change with age of pulmonary function and exercise capacity are studied, even longitudinally, we are looking at a process which involves far more than just aging. In the same sense that geneticists study the interaction of genotype and environment, students of aging, by necessity, must study the interaction of age and environment.With these issues in mind, there needs to be a continued epidemiologic emphasis on a number of key questions which have not been addressed in most studies. Among these are the following:
1. Are there changes in the associations between risk factors and morbidity and mortality with increasing age? Do these changes represent selection effects; cumulative effects of exposures over a lifetime; changes in the social, behavioral, and psychological environment; or other factors?
2. Do the predictors of change in risk factors vary by age? If so, can an understanding of the ways in which environments, demands, and resources change with age advance our ability to construct efficacious interventions?
3. Can an emphasis on the behavioral, social, psychological, demographic, and environmental situations that are unique to particular ages help us to understand the development of age-dependent diseases ( Brody & Schneider, 1986)?
4. Does lifetime exposure to behavioral, social, and other risk factors influence the impact of age-dependent risk factors such as bereavement?
5. Can the contribution of behavioral, social, psychological, demographic, and environmental factors to both incidence and progression of age-dependent diseases be understood? This is an issue of critical importance to the controversy concerning the compression of morbidity.

CONCLUSIONS

These results from the Alameda County Study, and other analyses, underscore the importance of a broad approach to the study of aging and health. There appears to be dense, reciprocal determination of a broad range of behavioral, social, psychological, and demographic risk factors. The proper study of systems of this complexity will require study designs and analytic techniques which strain our current resources and knowledge. From a public health perspective, however, such studies will be necessary to provide a firm basis for a new disease prevention/health promotion approach that can reduce the burden of disease, illness, and disability in an aging population.


REFERENCES

Berkman L. F., & Breslow L. ( 1983). Health and ways of living: The Alameda County Study. New York: Oxford University Press.

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