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Life course epidemiology may be conceptualised as “the study of long term effects on later health or disease risk of physical or social exposures during gestation, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and later adult life.”1 Adolescence, the period between childhood and adulthood defined by the WHO as 10–19 years, has an uneasy status in epidemiology. On the one hand, adolescents, who now number over 1.2 billion worldwide—around 20% of the global population—are highly visible in population-based studies. Young people's behaviours have been an important subject of epidemiological inquiry, from tobacco and alcohol use to violence and sexual activity. Yet, concepts of adolescence as a discrete stage in the life course have been much less discussed within epidemiology. This is particularly so in studies of the developmental origins of adult health and disease, which have focused on the influence on adult health outcomes of exposures from the period of rapid physiological change in very early life. Similarly, investigators in the field of the social determinants of health and disease have concentrated their efforts on the effects of parenting and education in early childhood.
With the aim of developing our understanding of the place of adolescence in a life course framework, in May 2013, we organised a joint workshop between UCL and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
After infancy, adolescence is the period of greatest and most rapid development
Studies of the biological embedding of early life experiences have focused largely on prenatal or infant life, and have led to the understanding that periods of rapid organ system development during these phases of life are critical to adult health.1 Yet, adolescence is second only to fetal and infant life …
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