Your life, your health – researchers invite you to share what they know about how life gets under your skin

I’m really excited today as I’ve been looking at a wonderful example of research that’s relevant to us all, presented in an accessible way. The team at the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) know they have really interesting findings and want to share them with everyone. They also want your feedback and encourage anyone who’s interested to write, visit the website, or attend their policy seminars and public events. YES!

The downloadable booklet ‘Life Gets Under Your Skin’ provides a really readable summary of findings from studies which have taken a long, hard look at people across our society and down the years, and I defy anyone not to find stuff in there that’s interesting and relevant to them. Britain has a unique collection of studies which follow people from birth into old age. This publication looks at some of the work done by researchers using information from two of these Birth Cohort Studies, which followed people born in 1946 and in 1958. The researchers are interested in two big challenges:

  • Finding ways to combine information from different stages of life to find patterns, without ignoring the individuality of each person in the studies. This can help us find out what are the escape routes from disadvantage, which factors increase freedom of choice, and how best these can be provided by health and social policies
  • Combining social and biological information and working out how ‘medicines’ such as social relationships and education affect people’s health

The booklet has short sections divided into life stages, with a section for policy implications in each. They are:

  • A good start in life
  • Family life
  • A period of crucial changes: Adolescence
  • Work, wellness and well-being
  • Social relationships and psychological well-being
  • Up the hill, but not over it: Ageing in the 21st Century
  • Life getting under the skin: Childhood stress and adult health

It’s full of interesting stuff, of the sort you’ll find yourself sharing over the dinner table or at the bus stop. There were some surprises in there for me, and some good news. I liked the idea of our seniors being up the hill rather than over it and surprised to read that, on average, people report their quality of life as improving from age 50, peaking in their late 60s! There are interesting observations around employment and the impact of jobs, and the lack of them, on our wellbeing, as well as changing patterns for women and families over the decades. Despite the worry felt by lots of working parents about juggling work and family, the research did not find any negative effect on children’s emotional or social development by age five if mum has been working. In fact, the ideal scenario for boys and girls alike seems to be when both parents live in the home and are in paid employment.

There’s so much more in there and I could go on…but I strongly encourage you to read it for yourselves. You can download it free from the link below. What are you waiting for?

Links:

Bartley M (editor). Life Gets Under Your Skin. London: UCL Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, on behalf of the ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health; 2012. Available: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/icls/publications/booklets/lguys.pdf

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Sarah Chapman

My name is Sarah Chapman. I have worked on systematic reviews and other types of research in many areas of health for the past 17 years, for the Cochrane Collaboration and for several UK higher education institutions including the University of Oxford and the Royal College of Nursing Institute. I also have a background in nursing and in the study of the History of Medicine.

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