Inflammatory exposure and historical changes in human life-spans

Science. 2004 Sep 17;305(5691):1736-9. doi: 10.1126/science.1092556.


Most explanations of the increase in life expectancy at older ages over history emphasize the importance of medical and public health factors of a particular historical period. We propose that the reduction in lifetime exposure to infectious diseases and other sources of inflammation--a cohort mechanism--has also made an important contribution to the historical decline in old-age mortality. Analysis of birth cohorts across the life-span since 1751 in Sweden reveals strong associations between early-age mortality and subsequent mortality in the same cohorts. We propose that a "cohort morbidity phenotype" represents inflammatory processes that persist from early age into adult life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infections* / epidemiology
  • Inflammation* / epidemiology
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Longevity
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality*
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Time Factors