Interdisciplinary Health Research Group


Group leader: Michelle Kelly-Irving

Steering Committee Members:

David Blane, Noriko Cable and Morten Wahrendorf

Twitter: @Social2bio













Life course research on health and disease has reached a new stage in exploring the social-to-biological transition. Large longitudinal datasets containing socio-demographic and socio-economic characteristics, self-reported health assessments, psychological and biological data are coming into maturation and being made available to researchers. The field of life course research is interdisciplinary by construction, stemming from different traditions including epidemiology, demography, sociology and psychology. An interdisciplinary field of life course research has emerged from collaborations between these disciplines and others.

Given these strong traditions, life course research is well placed to establish both social and biological plausibility in testing hypotheses about the social-to-biological transition and production of health inequalities.


To this end, an Interdisciplinary Health Research working group within the Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies was set up in 2014. The aim of the group is to structure and facilitate health related research across disciplinary boundaries and promote open access datasets.


  • If you are interested in this area of research we invite you to sign up to the group’s email list

  • Read the editorial by group founding members in the international journal of public health here:

  • Michelle Kelly-Irving and Melanie Bartley have set up and are running a twitter account @social2bio where recent evidence and discussions on social-to-biological research are discussed


Group activities

We welcome any group members to propose and organise activities on Interdisciplinary health research! Just get in touch and let us know, so that we can spread the word. If you are interested in getting involved with - or even convening - our forum, this would be especially welcome.


Coming up: Conference in Milan, July 2018

We are planning several symposia, and are organising a post-conference workshop. The abstract for the workshop is below, and you can sign up to participate when you register for the conference.


'Inequalities in ageing: an example of the social to biological transition? Taking a life course approach using social and biological data'

Noriko Cable, Michelle Kelly-Irving, David Blane, Morten Wahrendorf (on behalf of the Interdisciplinary health research group)


Background: In this workshop, we propose a model for examining the observed life course socioeconomic differentials in the ageing process. We suggest that the ageing process to be examined from the life course perspectives: looking into exposures during early life, where the conditions for producing socially patterned health outcomes are set in later life.


This workshop aims to establish: 1. The rationale for examining the construction of health inequalities through the life course approach; 2. An outline of the life course approach within medical sociology and social epidemiology; 3. An understanding of the social and biological dynamics involved in ageing processes over the life course by using longitudinal datasets; 4. Practical knowledge and resources about how to set up a piece of life course research, testing a social-to-biological hypothesis that is theoretically plausible.


Methods: To achieve this a faculty consisting of experienced social, population and biological scientists from across Europe will teach a combination of theoretical, methodological and empirical sessions, combined with practical activities. The practical session will be designed around group work using a published methodology for teaching life course theories and the social-to-biological transition through developing and analysing vignettes. The workshop will be held over one half day after the main SLLS conference.


Expected results: The participants in the workshop will acquire an understanding of life course theories as applied to the study of health. They will learn how to construct their approach by clarifying plausible social drivers and biological mechanisms underlying a hypothesis. They will learn to use available resources (data, biomarker glossaries, guidebooks) and benefit from the network of researchers within the Interdisciplinary health research group.


Previous activities

We held successful symposia and one post-conference workshop in Stirling on social-to-biological research which were well attended, and from which we obtained positive feedback.


We also held a lunchtime meeting to discuss this year’s activities and future directions, with a number of new enthusiastic members joining.


For further information, get in touch with the group leader and committee members whose contact information is below.


Michelle Kelly-Irving, Inserm/ University of Toulouse,

David Blane, Imperial College London,

Noriko Cable, University College London,

Morten Wahrendorf, University of Dusseldorf,