Allostatic load as a marker of cumulative biological risk: MacArthur studies of successful aging

Teresa E. Seeman, Bruce S. McEwen, John W. Rowe, Burton H. Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1035 Scopus citations


Allostatic load (AL) has been proposed as a new conceptualization of cumulative biological burden exacted on the body through attempts to adapt to life's demands. Using a multisystem summary measure of AL, we evaluated its capacity to predict four categories of health outcomes, 7 years after a baseline survey of 1,189 men and women age 70-79. Higher baseline AL scores were associated with significantly increased risk for 7-year mortality as well as declines in cognitive and physical functioning and were marginally associated with incident cardiovascular disease events, independent of standard socio-demographic characteristics and baseline health status. The summary AL measure was based on 10 parameters of biological functioning, four of which are primary mediators in the cascade from perceived challenges to downstream health outcomes. Six of the components are secondary mediators reflecting primarily components of the metabolic syndrome (syndrome X). AL was a better predictor of mortality and decline in physical functioning than either the syndrome X or primary mediator components alone. The findings support the concept of AL as a measure of cumulative biological burden.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4770-4775
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
StatePublished - 10 Apr 2001
Externally publishedYes


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