Social-biological transitions: how does the social become biological?


  • David Blane Imperial College Medical School
  • Michelle Kelly-Irving INSERM Unit 1027, University of Toulouse.
  • Angelo d'Errico University of Turin
  • Melanie Bartley University College London.
  • Scott Montgomery University of Orebro.



Life course, social exposures, biological processes, social-biological transitions, public health.


The present discussion paper sets forward a model within the life course perspective of how the social becomes biological.  The model is intended to provide a framework for thinking about such questions as how does social class get into the molecules, cells and tissues of the body to produce social class differences in life expectancy and cause of death?  A categorisation of social exposures and biological processes is suggested; and some principles governing their inter-relations proposed.  The paper ends by suggesting two public health applications of this approach.

Author Biographies

David Blane, Imperial College Medical School

Professor Emeritus of Medical Sociology, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, St Dunstan's Road, London W6 8RP.

Michelle Kelly-Irving, INSERM Unit 1027, University of Toulouse.

INSERM Senior Researcher, Department of Public Health, University of Toulouse.

Angelo d'Errico, University of Turin

Senior Epidemiologist, Department of Epidemiology, University of Turin.

Melanie Bartley, University College London.

Professor Emerita of Medical Sociology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London.

Scott Montgomery, University of Orebro.

Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, Department of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Orebro & Orebro University Hospital.