There is growing evidence that the risk of chronic disease (such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer) does not start during mid-age but is rather the result of many risk factors accumulating from early age and interacting with each other across the life span. It is also clear that critical and sensitive periods exist during the life course and that during these periods of time the exposure to specific risk factors can have a more powerful influence on the future risk of chronic disease. Notably, the earliest determinants of chronic disease risk are related to events that occur in utero. For instance, smoking and malnutrition during pregnancy are recognized risk factors for increased chronic disease in the offspring during their adult life. Recent studies also show that risk factors may act across generations so that for instance, a lower socio-economic position in an individual can influence the risk of chronic disease in his/her offspring.
Therefore, it is important to apply a broader perspective to epidemiological studies using the so called life course approach to study lifestyle as a potential risk factor for chronic disease and mortality. At EPSO, we are involved in several such studies, including subjects from childhood to senescence.