I will present conceptual and empirical work rooted in lifecourse theory to examine and define the concept of embodiment. Such a definition is helpful for formulating research questions and generating hypotheses in the study of health inequalities and how they become formed both over a life span and between generations. The dynamic interactions between humans and their environments result in socially stratified health states. The embodiment dynamic will be deconstructed into its components including: elements that may have direct or indirect effects on health in multilayered ecosocial forms; mechanisms that produce biological responses; and the timing of the occurrence of these mechanisms relating to human developmental processes and lifecourse transitions which may alter the nature and effect of mechanisms and thus the subsequent response. Using social epidemiological analyses based on birth cohort studies I will examine the embodiment dynamic to understand how the childhood social environment may be a determinant of physiological and pathological outcomes in later life. This work has implications for public health prevention strategies, and for guiding further research on the social-to-biological transition.
Michelle Kelly-Irving is an INSERM (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médical) researcher in the field of life course epidemiology. She has previously worked at the University of Bristol and obtained her PhD in epidemiology from the University of London (Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Institute of education). She studied anthropology at the University of Durham as an undergraduate. The focus of her research is on the mechanisms and processes involved in the production of health inequalities across the life course. Notably she has been developing a program of research on health outcomes and health trajectories that are driven by social and psychosocial mechanisms from early life onwards. She is interested in how social and psychosocial processes are measured and can be used in relation to biomarkers and measures of physiological systems using longitudinal data.