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Economic & Social Research Council

Life does get under your skin

'Social medicines' are beneficial to the health and wellbeing of individuals and the population. By combining social and biological information from UK Longitudinal studies (life-course studies) researchers have identified that the more 'social medicines' you have, the better your physical and mental health. These include a stable family life, stress free childhood, alcohol free culture for young people, secure and rewarding employment, positive relationships with friends and neighbours, and a socially active old age.

Researchers from the International Centre for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health (ICLS) funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) are releasing a plain English guide to their research demonstrating how 'Life gets under your skin' as part of the Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Science in November.

A stable family life where children have secure routines, including being read to and taken on outings by their parents, is more likely to result in them being ready to take in what will be offered at school (school-readiness). Getting a flying start at school is one of the most important pathways towards wellbeing later in life.

An environment free of constant bombardment with cigarette and alcohol advertisements helps adolescents avoid the first steps towards addiction. People with more friends have higher levels of health and wellbeing - and researchers have found this to be almost as important as avoiding smoking over the longer term. A supportive social network can make all the difference as people confront the problems of ageing, helping them to maintain a high quality of life for many years.

The booklet demonstrates how social policy related to family life, education, employment and welfare can have beneficial effects for the health of individuals. It also shows how multi disciplinary, longitudinal research can deliver findings valuable to the individual, society and the economy.

Professor Bartley editor of the booklet says: "Unlike most other medicines these 'social medicines' revealed by life course research have no unwanted side effects. They can only benefit both individuals and society."

"Britain is unique and fortunate in having a range of studies on people and society. Wellbeing is increasingly influenced by society and by experiences that stretch right across the lifecourse of a person - from baby to old age. This booklet is intended to help make the results of lifecourse research as widely available as possible, informing decisions and improving understanding across a broad range of audiences," continues Professor Bartley.

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For further information contact:

Professor Mel Bartley, Director ICLS
Email: m.bartley@ucl.ac.uk
Telephone: 0207 679 1707

ESRC Press Office:
Sarah.Nichols
Email: sarah.nichols@esrc.ac.uk
Telephone 01793 413122

Jeanine Woolley
Email: jeanine.woolley@esrc.ac.uk
Telephone 01793 413119

Notes for editors

1. Event: What a life: social circumstances and health
Organisers: Anita Maguire and Patricia Crowley, ESRC International Centre for Life Course Studies in Society and Health, University College London
Date: 7 November 2012
Venue: The Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building 215 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE
Audience: Event for schools and colleges
For more information: What a life: social circumstances and health

2. The booklet is available to download free of charge from the ICLS website at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/icls/publications/booklets. Hardcopies are also available on request.

3. The International Centre for Life Course Studies in Society and Health (ICLS) is a multidisciplinary research group funded by the ESRC and located at UCL. ICLS research unites approaches from the social and biological sciences and looks at how the social circumstances in which people live are translated into health and social outcomes across all stages of the life course.

4. The Festival of Social Science is run by the Economic and Social Research Council and takes place from 3-10 November 2012. With events from some of the country's leading social scientists, the Festival celebrates the very best of British social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future. This year's Festival of Social Science has over 180 creative and exciting events across the UK to encourage businesses, charities, government agencies, schools and college students to discuss, discover and debate topical social science issues. Press releases detailing some of the varied events and a full list of the programme are available at the Festival website. You can now follow updates from the Festival on twitter using #esrcfestival.

5. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at www.esrc.ac.uk



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