Quantification of Biological Aging

Opportunities and challenges for research into the social determinants of health and health disparities

Aging is a leading risk factor for morbidity, disability, and mortality. Breakthroughs in the new field of geroscience suggest that aging-related risk reflects and accumulation of molecular changes that cause a gradual and progressive decline in system integrity. New tools may allow us to measure this process of biological aging. These tools open opportunities to test the hypothesis that accelerated aging is a critical mediator of health disparities, and to evaluate effectiveness of interventions to mitigate social gradients in health. This talk will cover theory and methods in the quantification of biological aging and challenges and opportunities in applying these methods to study etiology of health disparities/social gradients in health. Belsky will also share new data from recent efforts toward developing a single-time point DNA methylation-based method to quantify the pace of aging.  


Dan Belsky is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Belsky’s research sits at the intersection of public health, population and behavioral science, and genomics. His studies seek to understand how genes and environments combine to shape health across the life course. The goal of Belsky’s work is to reduce social inequalities in aging outcomes in the US and elsewhere. His work in aging has focused on the development and analysis of algorithms to quantify the process of biological aging, especially in young and midlife adults. Belsky’s work has received international attention, including by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Guardian newspapers, and appeared in outlets including PNAS, the JAMA journals, Lancet Respiratory Medicine, and top journals in epidemiology and gerontology.

Published Dec. 13, 2019 10:51 AM - Last modified Jan. 15, 2020 9:26 AM