Neurology Central

Making dementia history: the National Survey of Health and Development and Insight 46

Lauren Pulling, Editor of Neuro Central, explores the longest-running lifetime cohort study in the world, including the new neuroscience clinical sub-study, Insight 46.

An extraordinary study

In 1946, an extraordinary study began. Amid growing public concern around the effects of environmental and parental factors on fetal and child development, James Douglas – a physician with an interest in social medicine – launched the National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD); a study comprising 5362 individuals born in England, Scotland and Wales in one week in March 1946.

Funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) since 1962, data have been collected regularly on these individuals with over 20,000 variables having been recorded over a lifetime, and approximately 2700 participants remaining in active follow-up. Remarkably, data were intended to be collected for 1–2 years; yet, 70 years on, researchers are still gathering data on this unique cohort. In addition to the longitudinal nature of the study data, this cohort is particularly interesting given the health and life circumstances of the participants. This, together with the fact that physical, cognitive and environmental measures have been collected on this group since childhood, makes the NSHD – the longest-running study of its kind in the world – an invaluable resource for research across the spectrum of health and disease.

What have we learnt from the 1946 cohort so far?

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