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Allostatic load in later life: How does neighbourhood ‘get under the skin’

School of Social and Political Science

Edinburgh United Kingdom Epidemiology Other Other Social Geography

About the Project

 The Advanced Care Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh is a new £20m interdisciplinary research collaboration aiming to transform later life with person centred integrated care

The vision of the ACRC is to play a vital role in addressing the Grand Challenge of ageing by transformational research that will support the functional ability of people in later life so they can contribute to their own welfare for longer. With fresh and diverse thinking across interdisciplinary perspectives our academy students will work to creatively embed deep understanding, data science, artificial intelligence, assistive technologies and robotics into systems of health and social care supporting the independence, dignity and quality-of-life of people living in their own homes and in supported care environments.

The ACRC Academy will equip future leaders to drive society’s response to the challenges of later life care provision; a problem which is growing in scale, complexity and urgency. Our alumni will become leaders in across a diverse range of pioneering and influential roles in the public, private and third sectors.

The overarching aim of this project is to examine how the stresses associated with living in particular neighbourhoods at particular parts of the life course ‘get under the skin’ and have enduring effects on allostatic load in later life.

It is well known that health outcomes are strongly associated with neighbourhood characteristics, but the mechanisms that underpin this association are contested. Recent advances in survey data combining social and biomedical information enable the links between social circumstances, stress, allostatic load and subsequent health outcomes to be formally tested and this represents an emerging area of research.

The project will employ longitudinal data analysis drawing on data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and other sources to consider the following questions:

  1. Do we see variation in levels and trajectories of allostatic load in later life that are influenced by characteristics of place (e.g. deprivation, green space, crime or pollution) independent of individual socio-economic circumstances?
  2. Are there critical periods in the life course where exposure to neighbourhood characteristics is particularly important in setting later life allostatic load? 
  3. Do trajectories of allostatic load alter as older people experience a move of home and neighbourhood in later life?
  4. What are the lessons for the planning and design of environments conducive to healthy ageing that flow from this research?

The supervisory team reflects the project’s approach, bringing together interdisciplinary expertise in social statistics and methods (Marshall, who is also Director of School for Social and Political Science Research Training Centre), landscape design and perspectives on salutogenic environment (Professor Ward Thompson) and neighbourhood health effects (Professor Jamie Pearce). These different approaches come together in a shared interest in the determinants of health, care and wellbeing and in particular the ways in which neighbourhood environment gets under the skin to influence allostatic load over the life course.

Funding Notes

PhD's are fully funded with an above industry stipend for the full 4 year period.

The call is open to candidates of any nationality but funded places for overseas nationals will be strictly limited to 3 international students who can apply for the highly competitive ACRC Global Scholarship.

Application forms are now available here:
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Find more information on how to apply on the How to Apply section of our website:
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Video PhD Introduction

ACRC Academy Video:

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