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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Research Projects

Publication details

Moreira, Tiago, Hansen, Asger Aarup & Lassen, Aske Juul (2020). From quantified to qualculated age: the health pragmatics of biological age measurement. Sociology of Health & Illness 42(6): 1344-1358.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

There is growing interest, within the social sciences, in understanding self‐quantification and how it affects health practices in contemporary society. There is, however, less research on how ageing and health measurement relate, even though this relationship has become more pertinent with the growing availability of services and devices offering biological, personalised age measurements, from simple online questionnaires to telomere length quantification. Little is known about who uses these devices, why they use them and the socio‐technical implications of such uses. To explore these issues, we conducted semi‐structured interviews and focus groups with users of measurements of biological age (BA) in Denmark. We found that participants engage with the measurements with a degree of scepticism regarding their technical validity, reliability and sensitivity. Rather than seeking an exact biological quantification, participants use measurements as a pragmatic, rough indication of individual health. We develop a conceptual model to understand participants’ engagement with BA measurements, which suggests that, instead of a substitution of chronological age for BA, users gauge the difference between the two to qualify their present and future individual trajectory in a lay model of the relationship between functional capacity and age.

Department of Sociology