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Evaluation of the Person Years Construct as a Method of Examining Disease Prevalence in the Nubian Population

Anderson, Kelsey Blair (2010)
Honors Thesis (37 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Armelagos, George
Committee Members: Gouzoules, Sarah ; Dickson, Katrina
Research Fields: Anthropology, Physical; Anthropology, Archaeology
Keywords: Paleoepidemiology; Fracture; Cribra Orbitalia; Nubia
Program: College Honors Program, Anthropology
Permanent url:


The skeletal record reveals little information regarding the actual age at which particular conditions arise within a population. Epidemiological analyses have attempted to illuminate the effects of skeletal age on the prevalence of health disparities within skeletal samples. Paleodemography maintains a fundamental focus on age distributions in mortality profiles and understands the role of age as a confounding variable in paleoepidemiological analyses. This relationship is evaluated by comparing mortality profiles to the distribution of pathologies, trauma, and stress indicators in skeletal samples. This approach however, neglects the potential for an increase in the exposure to various health risks over time. As a proposed remedy, this study evaluates the potential for employing the person years construct (Glencross and Sawchuk 2003) as a more accurate way of gauging age-adjusted prevalence of indicators of overall health, specifically skeletal stress indicators, within skeletal samples. This method measures the length of exposure for each individual as well as the mortality profile of a given sample, while also attending to the potentially confounding effect of these two factors on the prevalence of pathologies and stress indicators. To evaluate the utility of this alternative approach, the frequency of cribra orbitalia and trauma/fractures in relation to skeletal age for several well-studied skeletal samples from Sudanese Nubia (350BC-1500+AD) was determined using three different calculations: prevalence, age-adjusted prevalence, and person-years adjusted prevalence. Throughout the study a notion of cumulative person years was devised and calculated for the two conditions as well. Results show a potential for gauging when particular conditions most affect a population. Further studies may have implications for improving the accuracy of interpretations of age-related patterns in overall health, trauma, and evidence of disease in skeletal samples.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Introduction...1 -- Background...2 -- Materials...12 -- Methods...12 -- Results...14 -- Discussion...15 -- Conclusion...21 -- Bibliography...23 -- Appendices...A1


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