Life course epidemiology and statistical methods for analysing trajectories have developed rapidly during the last decades, largely thanks to increased availability of longitudinal data with multiple repeat measurements and personal computers that can handle complex calculations on large sets of data.

Trajectories have several important advantages. One is that they produce graphical outputs that present complex data in a way which is simple to grasp and whose main features can be intuitively grasped also by the non-specialist. Another advantage is that although observational data cannot provide actual proof of causality, trajectories based on intra-individual data with multiple repeat observations can provide much better evidence regarding the relationship between exposures and outcomes than crosssectional studies or studies based on only two measurement points. They have for instance been successfully used to study the effect of retirement on perceived health, to identify how long before a diagnosis of diabetes blood glucose starts to deviate from normal, as well as to examine how social class impacts on the development of body mass index from the middle years to old age. It is also possibly to identify different developmental patterns in longitudinal data using latent class trajectory models. The latter model has lately been used quite extensively in alcohol research, where patterns of drinking over the (mostly early) life course can be related both to determinants and outcomes, yielding a better understanding of what constitutes dangerous drinking and how it is established.

We gave an overview of both life course epidemiology and trajectory methods, look in-depth at some practical applications in public health research presented by the original authors themselves, as well as run some basic trajectory analyses using common statistics programs and own or provided data.

Learning objectives

After the course, the students had a solid basic knowledge about life course research and the application of trajectory methods in public health research, should be able to critically evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different trajectory methods in relation to concrete research question in public health epidemiology, as well as run simple trajectory models using SAS or SPSS.

Course structure

  • One preparatory week, online with course material and one introductory webcast lecture
  • 2 calendar week course full time in Sweden, total of 60 contact hours
  • One week for writing the exam paper
  • All in all 6 Bologna credits

This is a 4 week course starting from Monday 31st March. The event is free to attend.

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