An integrative approach for the analysis of risk and health across the life course: challenges, innovations, and opportunities for life course research

Sascha Zuber, Laura Bechtiger, Julien Stéphane Bodelet, Marta Golin, Jens Heumann, Jung Hyun Kim, Matthias Klee, Jure Mur, Jennie Noll, Stacey Voll, Patrick O’Keefe, Annekatrin Steinhoff, Ulf Zölitz, Graciela Muniz-Terrera, Lilly Shanahan, Michael J. Shanahan, Scott M. Hofer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Life course epidemiology seeks to understand the intricate relationships between risk factors and health outcomes across different stages of life to inform prevention and intervention strategies to optimize health throughout the lifespan. However, extant evidence has predominantly been based on separate analyses of data from individual birth cohorts or panel studies, which may not be sufficient to unravel the complex interplay of risk and health across different contexts. We highlight the importance of a multi-study perspective that enables researchers to: (a) Compare and contrast findings from different contexts and populations, which can help identify generalizable patterns and context-specific factors; (b) Examine the robustness of associations and the potential for effect modification by factors such as age, sex, and socioeconomic status; and (c) Improve statistical power and precision by pooling data from multiple studies, thereby allowing for the investigation of rare exposures and outcomes. This integrative framework combines the advantages of multi-study data with a life course perspective to guide research in understanding life course risk and resilience on adult health outcomes by: (a) Encouraging the use of harmonized measures across studies to facilitate comparisons and synthesis of findings; (b) Promoting the adoption of advanced analytical techniques that can accommodate the complexities of multi-study, longitudinal data; and (c) Fostering collaboration between researchers, data repositories, and funding agencies to support the integration of longitudinal data from diverse sources. An integrative approach can help inform the development of individualized risk scores and personalized interventions to promote health and well-being at various life stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalDiscover Social Science and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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