Lifepath in Alba attended an international conference on ageing opportunities
Social and economic conditions affect the length and quality of our life, and particularly of our aging. This is what Professor Paolo Vineis told the audience of the conference Invecchiamento di successo 2017: ageing opportunities, organised in Alba (Italy) by Fondazione Ferrero.
Paolo Vineis is Chair of Environmental Epidemiology within the School of Public Health at the Imperial College London and coordinator of the Lifepath project, funded by the European Commission to study the biological mechanisms through which socioeconomic circumstances influences people’s health. During his lecture in Alba, Vineis presented the results obtained so far by Lifepath in the scientific understanding of how social adversities translate into biological changes that, in turns, may lead to unhealthy aging and premature death.
In Europe, 86% of deaths are attributed to non-communicable diseases, which determine years of healthy life lost, and high cost for the healthcare system, especially in long term care. Most of these chronic diseases are thought to be provoked by complex environmental and behavioural causes like unhealthy diet, low physical activity, and tobacco and alcohol consumption. However, lifestyles, like many other risk factors, are strongly influenced by social determinants of health such as occupational position, income, and educational attainment, which represent the “causes behind the causes”, as Vineis said in Alba.
According to recent studies, inequalities in longevity and wellbeing are related to psychosocial stress due to poor educational, occupational, environmental, relational and economic circumstances. These conditions may lead to chronic stress, which in turn can be responsible for diseases and premature mortality through a series of physio-pathological mechanisms like chronic inflammation.
Acknowledging the effect of socioeconomic conditions on health and on the quality of ageing, concluded Vineis, is thus of paramount importance to understand how and where to intervene in order to improve people’s wellbeing. The results of research projects like Lifepath can provide grounded scientific evidence for the development of public health strategies and new health policies.