The MRC National Survey of Health and Development is one of the studies of the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL (LHA). The research conducted by the LHA brings together data from all of it’s cohorts to help answer questions over a number of different themes. Research within the NSHD is covered by 4 of the LHA themes:
Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ from a challenge and this gets worse with age. For example, older people are less likely to make a full recovery to their pre-illness state from a fall, infection or surgery. We suggest that loss of resilience is an early marker of progressive loss of function, as well as increased risk of disease, frailty and death.
As part of this theme, we will apply a range of real life stressors, such as exercise and cognitive tests, during a clinic or a home visit and see how the study members respond. This will allow us to determine if a person shows early signs that they will be at more risk of disease and disability in the future. Potentially, we could use measures of resilience to identify people at high risk and may find new ways to intervene to improve their resilience which would lead to better outcomes.
Disorders of the cardiovascular system and metabolism play a key role in the ageing process. As part of this theme, we will be looking in detail at the heart, circulation system and brain through scans and MRI imaging. This will provide us with the opportunity to understand the life-course determinants of heart health in older age, by looking at cardiometabolic risk factor exposures across life.
Mental ageing refers to change or stability in later life cognition (i.e. knowing, learning and reasoning) and emotion (i.e. anxiety, depression and positive wellbeing). These processes are fundamental to our health, everyday life, and survival; which is why impairments in these functions are the biggest cause of disability in the UK.
Our aim is to investigate the influences on these functions across the life course, and the consequences of this for daily living and other aspects of health. To achieve this we will study three areas. First, we will investigate cognitive and emotional resilience, i.e. good (or good enough) function in spite of adversity. Second, we will investigate cognitive and emotional function in relation to cardiovascular (i.e. heart and blood vessel) function; this is important because most of the modifiable risks we know about for dementia are cardiovascular in nature, particularly in midlife. Third, we will investigate the life course epidemiology of emotional function. Of particular interest here is whether depression becomes more or less common in later life, and if so, what factors across the life course determine that change in risk.
Cohorts and Data Collection
Underpinning all our research is our data collection and cohort maintenance activities within the Unit. Data collection activities include the infrastructure, logistics, resource and data management. Cohort maintenance activities include data linkage, permissions, management, curation and sharing, biological sample storage, participant and public engagement, and cross cohort collaboration (e.g. CLOSER, DPUK, UCLEB).