Show Summary Details
Page of

What Is a Cause? 

What Is a Cause?
What Is a Cause?

Katherine M. Keyes

and Sandro Galea

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD MEDICINE ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Medicine Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 23 September 2020

Identifying factors that cause disease is the central driving force behind the discipline of epidemiology. Preceding chapters discuss how to measure associations in epidemiology; this chapter considers causal associations. The chapter articulates a framework focusing on the counterfactual approach to defining a cause and guides the reader through disease causation at the individual and population level. It presents disease causation in the population using the example of marbles and a marble jar through which certain combinations of marbles cause disease. Using the metaphor of the marble jar, the chapter discusses disease causation across the life course, offering a formulation for expressing disease causation in the context of connected networks of individuals who share exposures and may transmit diseases to one another. The chapter explains a framework for conceptualizing multiple causes of disease as exposures that interact and describes why the assessment of causes are often probabilistic rather than deterministic.

Access to the complete content on Oxford Medicine Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.