Aging, Health Behaviors, and Health Outcomes

By K. Warner Schaie; Dan Blazer et al. | Go to book overview

the role of time or age in the large array of facts in which it is imbedded, we might argue that the value of chronological age is limited to that of a pervasive filing index for data we cannot otherwise classify. (p. 8)

There are many interesting questions about age-dependent diseases that I would like to know that may really be a restatement of Kaplan's original question. What makes a disease appear early, on time, or late? Or to use Benfante et al.'s cut point over or under the age of 60 for coronary heart disease.
Why is bereavement an age-dependent risk factor? It is my understanding that coping with the death of a loved one is much more difficult when the death is that of a child and widowhood is more stressful for those where it is least expected.
The answer is definitely yes, non-medical factors have a major contribution to make to our understanding of the compression of morbidity, although as Verbrugge ( 1989) pointed out, there is no evidence that there is a compression of morbidity as yet.

A FINAL COMMENT

A major emergent issue for me that has been stimulated by this chapter is the question of what is the proper outcome for health/behavior/aging research. I think the prediction of length of survival is less interesting once we are no longer talking about premature mortality. Rather that we should be predicting the onset of frailty, the timing of disability, the onset of diseases that have their appearance in later life, or, in a sense, the disappearance of health. This dis- appearance of health may become a new operational definition for aging.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Dr. Siegler's work is supported by Grant P01-HL36587 from National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and Grant P50-AG05128 from the National Institute on Aging. I would like to thank Harry T. Phillips, MD, DPH who started me thinking about the intersection of aging and public health.


REFERENCES

Benfante R. J., Reed D. M., Mac C. J. Lean, & Yano K. ( 1989). Risk factors in middle age that predict early and late onset of coronary heart disease. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 42( 2), 95-104.

Birren J. E. ( 1959). Principles of research on aging. In J. E. Birren (Ed.), Handbook of aging and the individual: Psychological and biological aspects (pp. 3-42). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Brody J. A., Brock D. B., & Williams T. F. ( 1987). Trends in the health of the elderly population. In L. Breslow, J. E. Fielding, & L. B. Lave (Eds.), Annual review of public health (Vol. 8, pp. 211-234). Palo Alto: Annual Reviews.

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