Life course perspective for physical and cognitive functioning: Unravelling the roles of
psychosocial and biological factors

Main funder

Funds granted by main funder (€)

223 858,00

Funding program

Postdoctoral Researcher, AoF (Academy of Finland)

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2020

Project end date: 31/08/2023


Life course perspective for physical and cognitive functioning: Unravelling the roles of psychosocial and biological factors

Introduction. Population aging sets new challenges for the modern society. Physical disability, concerning especially the rapidly growing group of the oldest old individuals (age 85+), has many shared risk factors with dementia. Although a lot is known on the factors that cause physical and cognitive decline, many aspects still remain unknown, especially related to the longitudinal health effects of psychosocial factors.

Aims. The overall aim of the project is to unravel the roles of psychosocial factors and biological factors in relation with each other and in relation with physical and cognitive functioning across the life course. Furthermore, the aim is to examine possible mechanisms, including markers of biological aging (epigenetic clock), through which the effects of psychosocial factors on cognitive and physical functioning are exerted.

Materials and methods. This project utilizes unique longitudinal datasets from Finland (Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Aging and Dementia, CAIDE) and Sweden (Swedish Adoption/Twin Study on Aging, SATSA) with up to 40 years of follow-up, spanning from middle-age to the oldest old age group and containing information also from childhood. CAIDE includes participants from five previous, independent, Finnish population-based cohorts (North Karelia and FINMONICA studies, and, later, FINRISK), examined at middle age. The first follow-up of CAIDE was conducted in 1998 (n=1449). SATSA includes same-sex pairs of twins reared together and pairs separated before the age of 11. SATSA was initiated in 1984 with a mailed questionnaire (n=3838 individuals; 958 pairs; age 29–96 years). In-person testing in SATSA started in 1986, when all individuals aged 50 years and older were invited to in-person testing (in the first wave, n=645 individuals; 303 pairs).

Scientific and societal impact. The project provides a life-course perspective on the complicated relationships on how body and mind are interrelated which eventually may be seen as a decline in physical and cognitive functioning. With the possibility to dig into the mechanisms and causes of physical and cognitive decline over several decades, the project has the potential for scientific breakthroughs and scientific renewal and theory formulation. The findings of the study help in generating focused interventions for promoting good cognitive and physical abilities, and to further plan individualized health care.

Key words: Well-being, Social factors, Disability, Dementia, Longitudinal study, Oldest old, Epigenetics

Principal Investigator

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Primary responsible unit

Last updated on 2020-23-06 at 09:06