Biomarkers as precursors of disability

Apostolos Davillas, Stephen Pudney

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Abstract

Some social surveys now collect physical measurements and markers derived from biological samples, in addition to self-reported health assessments. This information is expensive to collect; its value in medical epidemiology has been clearly established, but its potential contribution to social science research is less certain. We focused on disability, which results from biological processes but is defined in terms of its implications for social functioning and wellbeing. Using data from waves 2 and 3 of the UK Understanding Society panel survey as our baseline, we estimated predictive models for disability 2–4 years ahead, using a wide range of biomarkers in addition to self-assessed health (SAH) and other socio-economic covariates. We found a quantitatively and statistically significant predictive role for a large set of nurse-collected and blood-based biomarkers, over and above the strong predictive power of self-assessed health. We also applied a latent variable model accounting for the longitudinal nature of observed disability outcomes and measurement error in in SAH and biomarkers. Although SAH performed well as a summary measure, it has shortcomings as a leading indicator of disability, since we found it to be biased in the sense of over- or under-sensitivity to certain biological pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100814
Number of pages10
JournalEconomics and Human Biology
Volume36
Early online date10 Sep 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Biomarkers
  • Disability
  • Prediction
  • Self-assessed health
  • Understanding Society
  • MORTALITY
  • RACE/ETHNICITY
  • CUMULATIVE BIOLOGICAL RISK
  • MACARTHUR
  • EDUCATION
  • STROKE
  • SELF-ASSESSED HEALTH
  • INCOME
  • PREDICTORS
  • LIFE

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