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From quantified to qualculated age: the health pragmatics of biological age measurement

Moreira, Tiago; Hansen, Asger Aarup; Lassen, Aske Juul

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Asger Aarup Hansen

Aske Juul Lassen


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.


Moreira, T., Hansen, A. A., & Lassen, A. J. (2020). From quantified to qualculated age: the health pragmatics of biological age measurement. Sociology of Health & Illness, 42(6), 1344-1358.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date May 30, 2020
Publication Date 2020-07
Deposit Date Jun 2, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 2, 2020
Journal Sociology of Health & Illness
Print ISSN 0141-9889
Electronic ISSN 1467-9566
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 6
Pages 1344-1358
Keywords self-quantification, biological age, qualculation


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (231 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version © 2020 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for SHIL (SHIL). <br /> This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

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