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Past projects

MRC ageing study

This study started in 1991 when 18,000 people aged 65 and over in England and Wales were interviewed about their health, cognitive ability, memory, lifestyle, family support and accommodation, contact with health and social services. Ten years later, they were interviewed again and in between times, smaller samples of the cohort have given information to help specific research projects.

Projections indicate that by 2040, 48,000 people in England and Wales will reach their 100th birthday. The success of public health measures and lifestyle changes in helping people reach these advanced ages is balanced by fears that they will spend these extra years of life suffering from conditions such as arthritis and heart disease, and illnesses such as Alzheimer’s Disease. The aim of the Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS) is to find out how health and well-being changes as people grow older. The ongoing results of this study will help improve the health and care of older people.

Individuals were originally randomly selected from Family Health Services Authorities lists with permission of their GPs. In the first round of interviews in 1991/92, the oldest participant was then aged 105. During interviews, researchers measured memory and concentration, found out about physical health and medication taken as well as day to day activities and difficulties, use of statutory services and levels of care needed and received. Some people have given blood samples so researchers can study their DNA and others have agreed to donate brain tissue for examination after their death to help scientists look for causes of dementia and other conditions of old age. Close relatives or friends have also been asked to give information. Different research teams in different fields are using the data collected in a plethora of different projects.

There are six participating centres in the study; four urban, Newcastle, Liverpool, Nottingham, and Oxford; and two rural, East Cambridgeshire and two areas in Gwynedd (NE Wales).

The CFAS administrative Centre is based at the Institute of Public Health at Cambridge University, and funded by the Medical Research Council.

Professor Michael Dewey is principal investigator of the study and is the leader of the depression research theme group.

Results from the study and research using the study data are being produced on an ongoing basis. Many papers have been published and findings presented at national and international conferences.

MRC Biostatics Unit, Cambridge University

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