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Open Access International Centre for Life course Studies in Society and Health

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The ESRC International Centre for Life Course Studies in Society and Health (ICLS) is a multidisciplinary research group who unite approaches from the social and biological sciences. Our work looks at how the social circumstances in which people live are translated into poor health and unfavourable social outcomes across all stages of the life course, describing and understanding the stepping stones from childhood towards a healthy and productive working life and the maintenance of health and wellbeing in the later years. It is widely accepted that these stepping stones begin in early childhood and involve social, psychological and physiological processes, hence the importance of combining work across disciplines.

ICLS has five key strategic priorities; to build capacity in the analysis of quantitative longitudinal datasets; to bridge the social and biological sciences; to develop international collaborative research networks; to make best use of the growing wealth of UK longitudinal data resources; and to maximise the impact of the Centre's programme of research. The UK is renowned for its wealth of studies that collect information on large numbers of people from birth and throughout their lives. However, there has and continues to be a shortage of scientists with the requisite skills to analyse these complex data. A priority for ICLS continues to be building capacity in this area, training social scientists without quantitative backgrounds in the skills to analyse such data. We know that the contexts in which people live get under the skin, but little is known about how this happens – how do social circumstances get into the cells and molecules to cause disease and early death? The second ICLS priority is the development of ideas on how best to combine information collected in longitudinal studies, on social circumstances, psychological characteristics and biological profiles in ways that are theoretically plausible from both social and biological perspectives. The current proliferation of longitudinal datasets from the US, Canada, Australia, mainland Europe, China, India, Brazil, Japan and Korea provide exciting opportunities for investigators, giving the backdrop to ICLS' third priority which is to continue to expand our international collaborative research networks. ICLS researchers aim to lead the way in the use and analysis of longitudinal social surveys research helping to ensure UK longitudinal studies maintain their status as the jewels in the crown of social science research. Together with membership of scientific advisory committees and participation in consultative processes, these activities will contribute to the fourth priority. Finally, through multiple pathways we aim to ensure our research is policy relevant and accessible to the non-academic community.

The core scientific programme in the five years 2013-2017 is organized around four themes, the first three of which chart the lifecourse: (a) Well-being in childhood and adolescence – here the focus is on the pathways to good health and educational achievements from birth to 25 years of age; (b) Work, health and well-being – where the health consequences of changing roles of men and women in relation to paid and unpaid work are examined, as are the health consequences of working in 'poor quality' jobs; (c) Social influences on successful ageing – considering the importance for health of staying in paid employment beyond retirement age, and comparing successful ageing in different international contexts; and an overarching theme (d) The social-biological interface – where pathways between social mobility and health are under focus. With additional funding the core programme expands and develops as findings lead directly to new research questions and users of our research ask us to extend the research in new directions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2017

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