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15 February 2023

Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study Receives £2.3m Funding

The Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study has been backed by £2.3 million funding from the UKRI Medical Research Council to collect new follow-up data from twin participants at age 30.


The E-Risk Study is co-led by Professor Helen Fisher, Professor Terrie Moffitt, Professor Avshalom Caspi, Dr Chloe Wong and Dr Jayati Das-Munshi at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience and ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health at King’s College London. The new follow-up project will be delivered in partnership with the McPin Foundation who will oversee the involvement of young adults with lived experience of mental health problems in the project. The project has been awarded £2.3 million by the UKRI Medical Research Council (MRC) over a four-year period, starting 1 March 2023.

Now in its third decade, the E-Risk Study follows the lives of 2232 twins born in 1994-95 in England and Wales. The study aims to build knowledge about how environmental and genetic factors shape behaviours, attitudes, health and mental health from childhood through to adulthood.

We are currently living through times of major societal change and both political and economic instability. It is important to understand how this affects the mental health and prosperity of young people as they fully transition into adulthood, a key developmental period that impacts how they will fare in mid-life, with potentially massive implications for the NHS and the economy.

Professor Helen Fisher, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, and ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health, King’s College London

This project will provide a unique resource for researchers to conduct genetically informed investigations of how mental health problems, biological factors, social inequality and adversity in the first two decades of life shape variation in mental health, pace of aging, relationships/connectedness, trust, future expectations/aspirations and prosperity in the third decade of life. Such research will provide important insights into which factors lead to young adults faltering or prospering in this period of social and economic turmoil which in turn could inform policy, practice and societal responses to support all young adults to thrive in these unprecedented times. Increasing the number of young adults who are mentally healthy and socially mobile in mid-life could ultimately boost the UK economy and reduce strain on the NHS.

We are extremely grateful to have received this MRC funding which will enable us to assess the E-Risk twins again at age 30. This new information, together with the existing data we have from the first two decades of their lives, will enable us and other researchers to understand what can be done to best support young people to thrive in these challenging times.

Professor Helen Fisher, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, and ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health, King’s College London

E-Risk was first proposed in 1997 by Professor Terrie E Moffitt and Professor Avshalom Caspi and each wave of data collection has been funded by the MRC. The study of twins has been crucial to disentangle the interplay between genetics and environmental risk factors.

Through the years, data have been collected about many different topics, including mental health, obesity, asthma, school performance, criminal offending, violence victimisation, neighbourhood conditions, the family environment, as well as biomarkers to investigate inflammation, gene expression, epigenetic DNA methylation, telomeres, and neuropsychological functions. Together with the new information collected at age 30, this three decades’ worth of comprehensive data will be made freely and widely accessible to the research community to address a wide range of important questions about mental and physical health, adversity and prosperity in childhood through to adulthood. Keep an eye on for more information in the next few years.

The MRC improves the health of people in the UK – and around the world – by supporting excellent science and training the very best scientists. MRC funds research at the forefront of science to prevent illness, develop therapies and improve human health.

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In this story

Helen Fisher

Professor of Developmental Psychopathology

Terrie E. Moffitt

Chair in Social Behaviour & Development

Jayati Das-Munshi

Clinical Reader

Chloe Wong

Senior Lecturer in Epigenetics

Avshalom Caspi

Chair in Social/Personality Psychology