A framework for understanding health inequalities over the life course: the embodiment dynamic and biological mechanisms of exogenous and endogenous origin

Understanding how structural, social and psychosocial factors come to affect our health resulting in health inequalities is more relevant now than ever as trends in mortality gaps between rich and poor appear to have widened over the past decades. To move beyond description, we need to hypothesise about how structural and social factors may cause health outcomes.

In this paper, researchers from the Center for Epidemiology and Research in POPulation health (CERPOP) France, examine the construction of health over the life course through the lens of influential theoretical work. Based on concepts developed by scholars from different disciplines, they propose a novel framework for research on social-to-biological processes which may be important contributors to health inequalities. Two sets of broad mechanisms are defined that may help understand how socially structured exposures become embodied: mechanisms of exogenous and endogenous origin. The embodiment dynamic framework is described, its uses and how it may be combined with an intersectional approach to examine how intermeshed oppressions affect social exposures which may be expressed biologically. As well as explaining the usefulness of this framework as a tool for carrying out research and providing scientific evidence to challenge genetic essentialism, often used to dismiss social inequalities in health.

Find the full paper (in English) here. 

Groups that experience vulnerability: women, ethnic minorities, LGBTI+, migrants, disability

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