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Call for papers – Health & place across the life course – AAG, Boston, April 2017

We’re organising a session entitled Health and Place Across the Life Course at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in Boston, MA, April 5-9 2016. If you’re interested in contributing a paper then please get in touch. Further details here:

Session title: Health and place across the life course
Session organisers: Niamh K Shortt and Jamie Pearce, Centre for Research on Environment, Society & Health, University of Edinburgh.

Life course research has been instrumental in establishing that social, economic and cultural factors can influence health in later life either through, for example, an accumulation of effects or through critical periods.  There has however been little work by health geographers that has considered how factors that are rooted in place accumulate to influence health and wellbeing through the life course. Reasons for this may include the lack of readily available historical environmental data and the challenges that their collection pose. The absence of such research is problematic because it is likely to restrict our understanding of the ways in which places matter for health, including: the accumulative effects of place over the life course; the critical periods in people?s lives when places are particularly pertinent for health and wellbeing; and, for quantitative work, identifying causal relationships.

This session calls for research papers that incorporate environmental and/or social life course perspectives in order to answer these critical questions.  We welcome both empirical (quantitative or qualitative) and theoretical papers. We particularly welcome papers that consider the challenges of merging historical and contemporary data in health and place research.  Abstracts (maximum of 250 words) should be submitted to Niamh Shortt  by September 30th 2016.

All accepted participants will be required to register and submit your abstract to the AAG following the AAG guidelines and to send your PIN number to  by October 27, 2016.

Seeing e-cigarettes in shops may influence their use by teenagers

By Jamie Pearce

Adolescents who recall seeing e-cigarettes in shops are more likely to have tried them in the past and are more likely to intend to try them in the future, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.


Source: Creative Commons License

Continue reading Seeing e-cigarettes in shops may influence their use by teenagers

Neighbourhood availability of tobacco is likely to be a factor in explaining adult smoking in Scotland

In our new paper published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research we find that adults in Scotland living in environments with a greater availability of tobacco outlets are more likely to smoke, and less likely to quit. This follows on from our earlier work, in which we found that teenagers in Scotland are more likely to smoke if they live in areas with the highest number of tobacco retailers.cigarette-counter-725x544 Continue reading Neighbourhood availability of tobacco is likely to be a factor in explaining adult smoking in Scotland

Food environments around schools: what historical data might reveal about current obesity patterns

Life course, environments & health

We know that factors throughout life influence our health and well-being in older age. Childhood poverty, early life education, difficult life events and many other factors have been shown to be strongly related to subsequent health outcomes. Yet almost all of this work has focused on our individual circumstances, and there have been few attempts to consider whether a wider set of factors – such as those at the community or neighbourhood level – affect our health over the life course. This is perhaps a surprise given the evidence that features of our local environment – such as air pollution, green space, and high numbers of retailers selling fast food, alcohol or cigarettes – are often associated with current health status. If these factors are causally related to health then there may be a number of policy opportunities (e.g. see our recent post on alcohol retail licensing). Continue reading Food environments around schools: what historical data might reveal about current obesity patterns

Watch CRESH seminar on YouTube: Why is urban health so unequal?

Why is urban health so unequal?

CRESH member Prof Jamie Pearce recently contributed to an event jointly organised by the  Global Environment and Society Academy (GESA) and the Global Health Academy to deliver a public seminar series exploring the complex relationships between environment and health.  The seminar series marks The Year of  Environment and Health and will examine key issues such as urbanisation, population growth, extreme weather, pollution and  ecosystem services through the lens of global environmental change. You can watch the public lecture here:


Can we develop a ‘life course’ of place to understand spatial inequalities in health?

There has been a great deal of recent interest amongst social scientists and public health researchers on the multitude of social, economic and cultural factors that operate across the life course to affect our health.  Life course perspectives have helped us to appreciate that socioeconomic status and health in older age are not independent of social and economic inequalities earlier in life.  Two related pathways are possible. First, social and economic factors accumulate over our lives and this accrual is associated with health later in life. Second, negative socioeconomic exposures early in life influence our social trajectory, in turn affecting health; in other words the playing field in early life is uneven and this helps to establish subsequent health inequalities.

Given that life course perspectives have been so useful it is perhaps surprising that those of us with interests in ‘place’ or the ‘environment’ and health have rarely taken a life course perspective. Place-based factors early in life as well as cumulative exposure to the environment over the life course may well be important for subsequent health. Yet this assertion has rarely been tested despite the possibilities that these approaches offer for enhancing our understanding of health-environment relations. Longitudinal studies of health and the environment have almost exclusively focused on area-level social disadvantage (e.g. using historical census data) and the cumulative effects on health of living in a low income area.

Of course many aspects of the environment have been implicated in explaining health outcomes so why is it that there have been so few studies examining the health implications of a broad set of environmental characteristics over the life course? The likely answer to this question is that we have been put off by the difficultly of the task!  It is rare that neighbourhood-level historical information for multiple points in time (e.g. green spaces, local infrastructure, housing quality etc.) is readily available. Even when geographical information is obtainable it is often in an inconvenient form (e.g. a paper map or buried in an archive) or incompatible with social and health information on individuals over the life courses.

Current work at CRESH is exploring the feasibility of developing a ‘life course of places’. We are examining whether we can develop a heuristic for measuring a range of ‘health-related’ neighbourhood measures across the Lothian region of Scotland at various time points over the past 80 years.  We are considering the suitability of a range of available data sources including past censuses, historical maps, aerial photography and historical land use information. Of course the environmental characteristics will have a plausible link to health and may include local green space, population and housing density, street connectivity, local destinations, air pollution, availability of services, public space and transport links.  We are developing the measures with a view to combining the data with cohort information relating to individuals born in the Lothian region.

If we are successful in our work, then this study promises to provide some new perspectives on understanding the role of place in explaining health outcomes in later life. Watch this space to follow our progress….

 Jamie Pearce, February 2013