Longitudinal population studies

Over the past ten years, we’ve invested more than £120 million in longitudinal population studies in the UK and low- and middle-income countries. 

These studies have transformed understanding of the relationship between people’s health and the environment, such as the influence of early life experiences on later life.

Why it’s important

Longitudinal population studies track the health of a large group of people over time. They’re a powerful way of exploring the many influences that shape people’s lives – from their genes and the way they choose to live, to their local environment and the services they access – and how these come together to affect their health. 

They are extremely valuable resources for researchers, who can use the findings to understand what drives health and health inequalities in different groups of people, and build on this knowledge to make scientific breakthroughs that improve health. 

What we’re doing

We’ve funded a number of ground-breaking longitudinal population studies over the years, from UK Biobank to 100M Brazil.

We support and fund longitudinal population studies, including cohorts, panel surveys and biobanks, through Longitudinal Population Study Grants.

We also welcome applications which use data from longitudinal population studies to answer important scientific questions, but we consider these through our other funding schemes, for example Investigator Awards.

Read our strategy for funding longitudinal population studies [PDF 166KB].

Studies we already support

We currently support a number of longitudinal population studies in the UK and low- and middle-income countries. These include: 

UK

  • 1958 National Child Development Study – collects information on physical and educational development, economic circumstances, employment, family life, health behaviour, wellbeing, social participation and attitudes.
  • Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) – explores the environmental and genetic factors that affect a person’s health and development.
  • UK Biobank – aims to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of illnesses, including cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, eye disorders, depression and forms of dementia.

Low- and middle-income countries

  • 100M Brazil – a virtual cohort linking more than 100 million electronic social and benefits records to health records.
  • China Kadoorie Biobank – explores the effects of both established and emerging risk factors for many diseases, and the impact genes and environmental factors can have on common chronic disease risks. 
  • 1982 Pelotas Birth Cohort Study, Brazil – examines inequalities in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, specifically looking at the impact of the first 1,000 days of life over the life course.

Networks of longitudinal population studies

  • Alpha Network – brings together ten collaborating African research institutions to maximise the usefulness of data generated in community-based longitudinal HIV studies in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • INDEPTH Network – a global network of 42 health and demographic surveillance systems that collect longitudinal health and demographic data on populations in low- and middle-income countries.