Origins of health inequalities: the case for Allostatic Load

Cyrille Delpierre, Cristina Barboza-Solis, Jerome Torrisani, Muriel Darnaudery, Melanie Bartley, David Blane, Michelle Kelly-Irving, Linn Getz, Margret Olafia Tomasdottir, Tony Robertson, Per E. Gustafsson


In an opening paper Cyrille Delpierre, Cristina Barbosa-Solis, Jerome Torrisani, Muriel Darnaudery, Melanie Bartley, David Blane and Michelle Kelly-Irving explore the concept of Allostatic Load as a way of examining health inequalities. The impact of the environment on our biological systems is summarised by the concept of embodiment. The biological embedding of social conditions could therefore be a relevant mechanism to partly explain the social gradient in health. A key issue is how to measure the ‘physiological reality’, the biological expression of embodiment at individual and population levels. Allostatic load (AL) has been proposed as a measure of the overall cost of adapting to the environment, and may be a relevant tool or concept for measuring the way we have embodied our environment. The points they raise are then debated in commentaries by Linn Getz and Margret Olafia Tomasdottir, Tony Robertson and Per Gustafson. These commentaries are followed by a response from the authors of the opening paper.


allostatic load; health; measurement; life course; embodiment; biomarkers

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