The dynamics and statics of human health and disease: population biology meets medicine

11 May 2018

Steven Orzack
Fresh Pond Research Institute
Cambridge, MA


Important aspects of the biology of health and disease and of aging resist explanation by present concepts in demography, evolutionary biology, gerontology, and molecular biology. We need to expand our conceptual toolkit. An important component of this expansion is the analysis of temporal variation in trait expression so as to determine how much of it is signal and not noise. This analysis underwrites the use of Mark/Recapture analyses based upon methods developed by population biologists for wildlife management. These methods allow one to assess the statics and dynamics of trait change across age, cohort, and time. We have used this approach to analyze longitudinal health records from the Framingham Heart Study so as to assess the "compression of morbidity" hypothesis and the influence of cholesterol on health and disease. These are the most comprehensive analyses of the dynamics of human health and disease across the lifespan done to date.

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