Introduction

It has long been known that the complex and intertwined causes and consequences of aging of populations demand an interdisciplinary approach including the application of epidemiological skills. Nevertheless, epidemiology has only recently emerged as a substantial contributor and as an integrating activity within aging research, drawing upon the clinical sciences, biology and genetics, social science, demography, economics and policy/planning methods and using numeric and biostatistical and experimental techniques. Epidemiologic research provides answers to questions on how much age-related burden of disease and functional impairment there is within various populations, who is affected, and what specific factors put individuals at risk.

The term epidemiology was originally used almost exclusively to mean the study of epidemics of infectious diseases, but the definition has broadened during the past 80 years due to the marked change of patterns of morbidity and mortality in developed countries. It is now generally understood as comparing all phenomena related to health in populations and is defined as ''the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states in specific populations, and the application of this study to control of health problems'' (Last, 2001).

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