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Lifecourse biological pathways underlying social differences in healthy ageing (LIFEPATH)

Project summary

The overarching aim of the LIFEPATH project is to understand the determinants of diverging ageing pathways among individuals belonging to different socio-economic groups. This will be achieved via an original study design that integrates social science approaches with biology (including molecular epidemiology), using existing population cohorts and omics measurements (particularly epigenomics).

LIFEPATH suggests (a) that the effects of preventive interventions in early life are complementary to interventions in adulthood, (b) that intervening on poor socioeconomic conditions is complementary and quantitatively comparable to well-known risk factors like tobacco and alcohol consumption, obesity or a sedentary lifestyle, and (c) that more needs to be done to attenuate psycho-social factors in addition to material factors


Lifestyle-related behaviours such as diet, physical inactivity, tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption are important drivers of social inequalities in healthy ageing. They track from early life and their impact accumulates through the life-course. They do not explain the entire social gradient in health, however, but policy makers often see them as easier targets for specific actions. This is not necessarily the case. In addition to behavioural factors, environmental and occupational exposures, the LIFEPATH epidemiological and mechanistic approach highlighted that psychosocial stress is likely to be an additional important factor, and that trajectories towards poor health can be modified by acting both on intermediate risky behaviours and on social deprivation itself, from the very beginning of life-course.

More detailed information

Principal Investigator:

prof. Johan Mackenbach

Role Erasmus MC:



Project website:

Funding Agency:

Horizon 2020