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How do our social circumstances and adversity impact health in later life?

Researchers from the Centre for Public Health, Queen's University Belfast, are collaborating with international partners in Republic of Ireland and USA to investigate how social circumstances and life adversity impact the epigenome and our health outcomes as we age.

This unique collaboration will examine social, economic, health and epigenetic data from three national studies of ageing in the family of Health and Retirement studies - the Northern Ireland Cohort for the Longitudinal study of Ageing (NICOLA), the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS), and the Irish Longitudinal Study of Ageing (TILDA).

HSC R&D Division and UKRI Medial Research Council are providing funding for the work in NI, under the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme.

Professor Ian Young, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Health in Northern Ireland and Director of Health and Social Care (HSC) Research and Development, said: “The US Ireland R&D Programme is important to HSC as it enables international collaboration across Ireland and the US, producing world leading science and strengthening the global community to advance the health of our population. This project will help to ensure that the best evidence on healthy ageing is available to guide the advice which we provide for our population and confirms that Northern Ireland researchers are at the forefront of international work in ageing research.” 

Professor Amy Jayne McKnight, Professor of Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health at the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s and a lead investigator on the research project, said: “This research will help us to better understand today for a healthier tomorrow. It will robustly identify new links between people’s experiences throughout their lives and subsequent health outcomes in adults aged over 50 years. This is important as the biological markers that we identify may then be used to promote and maximise healthy ageing. 

“This project provides an opportunity for NICOLA to harmonise data with our international colleagues and generate new molecular data that will provide a useful legacy for many other NICOLA-based research projects downstream. The information gathered during the study will be vital in informing government policy and ensuring that Northern Ireland is well equipped to meet the challenges of an ageing population.” 

For more information please see the full QUB press release

This trans-national project will involve researchers at Queen’s University Belfast working alongside colleagues at the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California, the University of Minnesota, the University of California Los Angeles, Yale University, and Trinity College Dublin.