Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Coll Antropol. 2012 Mar;36(1):11-22.

Physiological dysregulation and somatic decline among elders: modeling, applying and re-interpreting allostatic load.

Author information

  • 1The Ohio State University, Department of Anthropology and School of Public Health, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


Mortality rates continue to decline among post-reproductive individuals. This makes understanding long-term physiological responses to stress increasingly important. Allostatic load (AL) was developed to assess detrimental effects on the soma of responding to multiple stressors over a lifetime. AL arises from developmental experiences, genetic predispositions, environmental, psychosocial, life style and other stressors. In early life stress responsive systems are initiated that produce hormones that maintain the soma through continual allostatic responses. Later in life, systems designed to mitigate stressors may fail or be compromised, promoting unwanted somatic changes and dysregulation. This places a load on the regulatory system that impedes day-to-day stress responses, predisposing to cellular damage and degenerative diseases. Here we review 44 peer-reviewed 2005-2010 publications reportedly examining relationships between AL and risk factors, chronic diseases, morbidity and mortality in samples of elderly adults. The sum of results suggests that AL does assess aspects of physiological dysregulation and somatic decline, predicts detrimental age-related declines, and is associated with negative sociocultural attributes and psychological outcomes. Such consistent results and wide application of AL, while it is still being modeled and re-interpreted, suggest its perceived usefulness as a research and clinical tool. AL provides a possible biomarker of senescence, assessing it over the life span will aid in predicting future negative health outcomes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk