About the project
Aim of the LIFEPATH project is to investigate the biological pathways underlying social differences in healthy ageing. To fulfil such a purpose, LIFEPATH members will address four specific objectives:
- to show that healthy ageing is an achievable goal for society, as it is already experienced by individuals of high socio-economic status (SES);
- to improve the understanding of the mechanisms through which healthy ageing pathways diverge by SES, by investigating life-course biological pathways using omic technologies;
- to examine the consequences of the current economic recession on health and the biology of ageing (and the consequent increase in social inequalities);
- to provide updated, relevant and innovative evidence for healthy ageing policies.
A key concept for the project’s background is the idea of health as a trajectory, with important heterogeneity among individuals strongly related to their environmental and social circumstances. This life-trajectory model implies a life-course epidemiology based on a build-up phase, starting in early life, followed by a decline phase.
Over time, SES is one of the strongest predictors of the development and preservation of good health, and of later life diseases and disabilities. Exposures to particular life events (e.g. psychosocial stress) or socio-economic conditions may have a long-term impact, which can be exerted via different biological pathways, including immunological and inflammatory ones.
To identify and understand the biological basis of the social determinants of health, LIFEPATH members will use data from three categories of studies:
- Europe-wide or national surveys combined with population registry data;
- cohorts with intense phenotyping and repeat biological samples (total population >33,000);
- large cohorts with biological samples (total population >202,000).
The project will also focus on the comparison of alternative policies to tackle the impact of SES on healthy ageing, including a “conditional cash transfer” experiment for poverty reduction and health impact assessment models (HIA).