Define Web of Causation


The web of causation is primarily a medical term used to represent the complex group of subjects and relationships that can contribute to the occurrence and spread of a disease.


  • The web of causation is a key term in epidemiology, the study of the distribution of health outcomes in a given population. The web model shows that diseases are not distributed randomly in any group, but that isolating how they are distributed requires the study of many factors.


  • The term "web of causation" first appeared in a U.S. epidemiology textbook in 1960.


  • It is important to distinguish association from causation. Just because a symptom is associated with a certain population or event does not mean that event or group is the cause of the symptom.


  • The web of causation implies there is in fact no single cause of any symptom or disease: they all stem from multiple inciting factors. Even seemingly obvious causal connections should be considered tentative.

Fun Fact

  • The "web of causation" model has been popularly applied to other complex systems, including the Internet and the world economy.

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  • Photo Credit Image by, courtesy of Steve Jurvetson
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