Monday, February 16, 2015

UK Life Study

Many of us here work with UK cohort study data. The UK has been the world-leader in this area in the last 100 years with classic studies such as the Lothian Birth Cohort, 1946 National Cohort Study, National Child Development Study, British Cohort Study, Millennium Cohort Study forming the basis for thousands of papers on the course of lifespan development. Details of the latest addition to this tradition - the UK Life Study - are below and on this link. 80,000 babies born between 2014 and 2018 will be tracked, making it larger than the previous studies combined. As they say below, approximately one in five of the children who are born in this cohort are likely, based on current information, to live past 100 years. It is interesting to think of what research techniques will be being employed to understand mortality patterns in 2115! 
Life Study is a new and very important research study that will involve more than 80,000 babies born between 2014 and 2018 – and their families – from across the UK. 
Life Study will collect information about these babies over their early lives and childhoods and into adult life. This will help us understand how early life experiences shape health and wellbeing later on. 
How will Life Study make a difference? 
Life Study will support a wide range of research designed to understand how to give every child the best possible start in life. 
From the information, measures and samples we collect from Life Study babies and their families, researchers may be able to understand:
  • why some babies develop asthma, eczema and food allergies while others do not
  • how children get ready for learning at school during their preschool years
  • how fathers influence their children’s development
  • the impact of air and chemical pollutants in early life
  • which parental leave policies are best for parents with young children.
These are just a few of the many areas of research Life Study will support. 
Have there been studies like this before?
In the UK, there have been several major research studies similar to Life Study beginning in 1946 and most recently in 2000. Between them these studies have recorded the childhoods and adult lives of different generations growing up in Britain. Babies in the earliest study are now well into their sixties and they continue to help researchers understand the importance of childhood experiences and how making a difference to children’s lives today makes a difference to their future lives as adults.
Why do we need another study? 
Life Study will focus on the lives of a new generation. It is also different to previous studies in some important ways. Unlike most other studies, Life Study will start in pregnancy, creating an exciting new opportunity to understand how babies grow and develop from as early as possible. It is also the largest study of its kind so far, which means that we will be able to answer some research questions we haven’t been able to before now using smaller studies. 
The time is right for a new study. Life in the UK is changing all the time and babies born today will have very different lives to ours and will live longer than their parents – one in five will live to be at least 100 years old.

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