Does the Body Forget? Adult Health, Life Course Dynamics, and Social Change

Mark D. Hayward, Connor M. Sheehan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

19 Scopus citations


Despite the growing application of a life course framework to understand the origins of adult health, research in this area faces important challenges that warrant consideration. Three challenges are considered here. First, how should life course researchers conceptually define health? We discuss the usefulness of a population health perspective where life course exposures give rise to a “portfolio” of health outcomes. Second, we argue that life course frameworks would be enriched by being more biologically informed and illustrate how life course exposures influence health through developmental and aging processes. Finally, we argue that life course research on adult health must attend more explicitly to the historical context to better understand the dynamics of life course influences on adult health. Dramatic changes have occurred across current birth cohorts represented in the adult population in their prenatal, childhood and adult exposures, yet these changes are rarely central in life course studies of health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
ISSN (Print)1389-6903
ISSN (Electronic)2542-839X


  • Birth cohorts
  • Developmental trajectories
  • Functional capacity
  • Historical context
  • Life course
  • Population health
  • Social capacity for health
  • Social change
  • Technological innovation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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