Allostatic Load and the Assessment of Cumulative Biological Risk in Biobehavioral Medicine: Challenges and Opportunities

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Abstract

Allostatic load provides a useful framework for conceptualizing the multisystem physiological impact of sustained stress and its effects on health and well-being. Research across two decades shows that allostatic load indices predict health outcomes including all-cause mortality and vary with stress and related psychosocial constructs. The study by Slopen and colleagues in this issue provides an example both of the utility of the allostatic load framework and of limitations in related literature, such as inconsistencies in conceptualization and measurement across studies, and the frequent application of cross-sectional designs. The current article describes these limitations and provides suggestions for further research to enhance the value and utility of the allostatic load framework in biobehavioral medicine research.

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