Life course pathways to ageing: MRC National Survey of Health and Development

Lead Research Organisation: MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing

Abstract

Public interest in ageing is manifest in concerns about the increasing proportion of the elderly in the population, how they can be cared for, and how to reduce individual differences in ageing. This study will show the state of health at age 62-63 years, and the distribution of risks of future poor health, of the first wave of the baby-boom generation, poised to increase the elderly population. We shall also show how risks associated with processes of ageing develop throughout life, particularly in terms of physical and cognitive functional decline and cardiovascular and musculoskeletal ageing, and the impact of ageing on everyday activities and quality of life

Technical Summary

The MRC National Survey of Health and Development is a representative sample (N=5,362) of the large post-war birth cohort, now poised to increase the elderly population. Since birth their health and socio-economic circumstances have been measured 22 times, making a uniquely detailed lifelong data. set. We shall extend our study of lifetime determinants of ageing trajectories by measuring again biological function and physical and cognitive capability (e.g. blood pressure, respiratory function, grip strength, standing balance and verbal memory). We shall also study ageing by measuring for the first time arterial and cardiac function and structure, and bone and body composition, because by the early sixties pre-clinical changes but few disease events have occurred. We have shown in a feasibility study that study members are prepared to travel to a clinical research facility to have these measures taken and we now request funding for the main data collection. Collecting the proposed data on the whole cohort would enable us to study how functional decline and cardiovascular and musculoskeletal ageing are associated with early life factors (such as early growth, cognition, nutrition and family socioeconomic circumstances), working independently, cumulatively or interactively with changes in adult life factors (such as body size, diet, exercise, smoking and socioeconomic circumstances), and genetic sources of risk. We shall also study lifetime explanations for social and gender differences in ageing, and the impact of ageing on quality of life. In due course the new measures will be valuable as risk indicators for onset of physical frailty and cognitive impairment, bone fracture and cardiovascular events

Publications

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