Centre for Studies in Primary Care

Centre for Studies in Primary Care

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Current Project

Susan Phillips

 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Susan Phillips, MD, MSc (Epid), CCFP, MD (HC)

Contact Susan Phillips:

613.533.6000 ext 73935
susan.phillips@dfm.queensu.ca

Learn more about Susan Phillips at her Contact Page.
 

 


How the Outside World Gets Inside

Understanding how the outside world gets "under the skin" to shape health and illness is of importance in understanding how individuals are impacted by the world around them. Of particular interest in my research is gender, that is, how the expectations, constraints and opportunities for women and men in a society or culture often (but not always) predispose to or protect from illness. My research tries to flip the medical paradigm which tends to look at risk of disease and instead focuses on learning about strengths of an individual that can explain health.

Understanding how the outside world gets "under the skin" to shape health and illness is of importance in understanding how individuals are impacted by the world around them. Of particular interest in my research is gender, that is, how the expectations, constraints and opportunities for women and men in a society or culture often (but not always) predispose to or protect from illness. My research tries to flip the medical paradigm which tends to look at risk of disease and instead focuses on learning about strengths of an individual that can explain health. I am currently involved in seven-eight studies that examine these strengths. One of these studies was recently published (PLoS One), using the IMIAS (International Mobility in Aging Study) data. The IMIAS is a longitudinal cohort study that follows 1,000 older women and 1,000 older men from Canada, Brazil, Colombia and Albania. The published study assessed whether childhood adversities had an impact on health decades later. Of particular interest was the impact that death of a parent at an early age might have. Amongst the IMIAS participants overall, those who had one or both parents die prior to age 15, or who had experienced hunger in childhood, but not those who witnessed violence, had significantly poorer self-rated health (a well-validated measure of objective health) in old age. But here's the part that I found most interesting - when the findings for men and women were separated, it was only men who suffered the long-term harm from early parental loss. This harm was great enough to drag the insignificant findings for women into statistical significance when data for both sexes were pooled. I hypothesize that gender differences, particularly in how women and men learn to cope, rebound from loss, develop self-control and autonomy - that is, in the resilience of each group - explains how the same event can have such different consequences for health. I will test this hypothesis using the next set of data collected.


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