Racial Disparities in Biomarkers of Health among the Survivors of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic: A Natural Experiment Exploring the Role of Early Life Events in Health and Longevity

Margaret M. Weden, RAND Corporation

Between August 1918 and March 1919, pandemic influenza swept the globe killing five times as many people as World War I and reconfiguring conventional expectations about the social stratification of disease and mortality. The pervasive and unexpected nature of the pandemic makes it a unique natural experiment for studying the influence of an external “shock” to established patterns of human development, aging and longevity. This study extends previous research on the relationship between early life events and later life aging by using biomarkers and social group patterns to study the mechanisms linking early and later life health and survival.

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Presented in Session 25: Biodemographic Influences on Health and Mortality