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Exp Gerontol. 2001 Mar;36(3):419-30.

Heterogeneity and its biodemographic implications for longevity and mortality.

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Center on Aging/NORC, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


In the visible world, heterogeneity typically refers to the differences that exist among individuals in a defined population. These differences can arise from a variety of sources--biological, behavioral and social. Ever since Darwin, scientists have argued over the biological significance of differences observed at the individual, morphological, physiological, genetic, molecular and structural levels. A general consensus has been reached. Heterogeneity is ubiquitous, it is important, and it increases as observations are made at finer levels of biological resolution. Debates over the significance of heterogeneity have emerged once again as biologists and demographers work together in order to create the emerging field of biodemography. For these scientists, the debates center around the relative impact that individual heterogeneity has on population level statistics. It is argued here that in a world where the mortality barriers to long life for individuals have been dramatically weakened, the population consequences of heterogeneity are already visible and will grow in importance as biomedical technologies continue to usher progressively more people into the post-reproductive period of the lifespan.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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