Social inequality in aging in the Lund Group

Our purpose is to study social inequalities in health and aging in a life course perspective, and to explore the pathways through and interactions with psychosocial, psychological and biological factors. We want to inform policy makers on intervention possibilities aiming at reducing social inequality in health among middle-aged and older adults.

Social inequality in aging in the Lund Group

Research focus

Professor Rikke Lund is leading the Copenhagen Lifecourse Epidemiology in Ageing Research group (CLEAR) with four major research themes:

  1. Life course and aging – with a main focus on identification of life course social, psychological, behavioural and biological risk factors for physical and cognitive function, inflammation and retirement patterns in late middle-age and early old age.

  2. Risk factors for disease and functional decline among older people – with a main focus on the impact of social circumstances and risk of functional decline.

  3. Natural experiments and complex interventions - with a main focus on middle-aged and older people living in socially diverse neighbourhoods.

  4. Demography of aging – with a major focus on gender and social inequalities in health and life expectancy.

We believe that a better understanding of life course social determinants of aging as well as their interplay with psychological, behavioural and biological factors is of huge importance in today’s aging society, in order to inform effective intervention strategies. Specific knowledge about risk factors and development of interventions in the most vulnerable older citizens will add important new knowledge to this area.

Find more information about the CLEAR group here. 

Main findings

Recent findings include:

  • Adverse socio-economic position across the life course (parental socioeconomic position and own income history) is associated with poorer physical and cognitive function as well as higher inflammatory levels in midlife.

  • That older Danish adults are in higher risk of decline in physical function and increased mortality when exposed to both poor social relations and low level of financial assets compared to those with good social relations and high assets. Poorer physical function was associated with a greater increase in general practitioner use among males, those who were married, and those with high financial assets.

  • Experiencing conflicts and demands from close social relations is associated with increased 10-year risk of hospitalization with ischemic heart disease and higher 11-year mortality in middle-aged Danes. The effect is significantly stronger in low socioeconomic groups.

Selected projects

Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank (CAMB)

Studies based on Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank (CAMB) N=7,191 which is based on a merger of three established cohorts, two of which have been followed since birth: The Metropolit male 1953 birth Cohort and The Copenhagen Perinatal Cohort born at the National University Hospital in Copenhagen in 1959-1961. CAMB includes detailed information on social, psychosocial, behavioural, and biological factors as well as information on health across the life course and on early aging from clinical testing in midlife. More than 70 research projects are employing the CAMB data.

Lolland-Falster Health Study (LOFUS)

We have a project under the Lolland-Falster Health Study (LOFUS) with the aim of exploring frailty and functional limitations in the age-range midlife to old age in an area of Denmark with low socioeconomic position and low life expectancy. We will study associations between social circumstances and frailty/functional limitations and their consequences, e.g. use of healthcare services. We also want to study the association between diabetes and frailty/functional limitations, and whether there are social differences in this association.

Health, Well-being and Social Relations in a Changing Neighbourhood: a longitudinal, multi-methods study of the consequences of large structural changes in a diverse social housing area (STRIT)

Recently, we have established the project STRIT. A longitudinal design using a multi-methods approach will be used to analyse how large-scale structural changes (in combination with a social intervention) in a social housing area are experienced by the residents aged 45 + years (N~600), and how the changes are associated with health, well-being and social relations at the individual and aggregated level across time before, during and after the structural changes. Through register linkage, development in health related and social factors will be compared to a control area not undergoing structural changes (N~5,000). Qualitative interviews with residents representing the two largest ethnic groups together with a household baseline survey conducted in eight languages will serve as needs assessment for two interventions to be planned in a participatory process building on co-creation with the residents and local stakeholders representing municipal and non-governmental health and social care services.

On top of the above mentioned, our projects are based on several other databases such as SHARE (Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe), DLSA (Ældredatabasen/Danish Longitudinal Study of Ageing) as well as the Danish Registers on health and social factors.