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BMJ. 1997 Apr 19;314(7088):1194-6.

Health and the life course: why safety nets matter.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London Medical School.


This article argues that a life course approach is necessary to understand social variations in health. This is needed in order to take into account the complex ways in which biological risk interacts with economic, social, and psychological factors in the development of chronic disease. Such an approach reveals biological and social "critical periods" during which social policies that will defend individuals against an accumulation of risk are particularly important. In many ways, the authors of modern welfare states were implicitly addressing these issues, and the contribution of these policies to present day high standards of health in developed countries should not be ignored.

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