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ALSPAC/Children of the 90s: 20 years old today

Children of the 90s has been awarded 6m to continue its vital research into the health and well-being of thousands of young people and their parents in and around Bristol.

The project, which recruited over 14,000 pregnant women in 1991 and 1992, has been charting the health of the women and their children (now young adults themselves) ever since. Now, with the financial support of the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the University of Bristol, the project is planning to continue studying the original participants the parents and their child and also to involve all other interested family members including grandchildren and other children of the study mothers. This will provide unique and valuable insights into family health.

By studying a person's life, from their time in the womb right through to adulthood, the project has demonstrated how what happens to us in early life (even before we are born), can have a profound impact on our health in later life. It also tells us a lot about how social, economic and biological influences affect our future development.

Some of the key findings of the study to date include:

  • Fifteen minutes of moderate exercise per day can reduce childhood obesity
  • Fathers can suffer from postnatal depression too
  • Taking paracetamol in pregnancy can lead to childhood asthma
  • Many common genes have a small but definite influence on obesity, height and many other aspects of growth and development

As the children now enter adulthood, new data collected from the study will provide valuable evidence into how behaviour before birth, through infancy, childhood and adolescence (for example, smoking or taking exercise) can affect our health later in life. Similarly, as the parents enter middle age, the study will be able to identify the causes of common health problems that many of us will experience as we get older, for example raised blood pressure, heart disease, depression and osteoporosis.

Professor George Davey Smith, Scientific Director of Children of the 90s said:

'By collecting data from before birth through to adulthood we are creating a rich resource which enables scientists to understand an enormous amount about causes of ill health and chronic disease, which should in time contribute to improving the health of the population. This additional funding means that we can investigate how the health of subsequent generations depends in part on what happens in the early life of future parents. Contributing to improved health of current and future generations is our ultimate goal.'

Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, commented:

'We are proud to support the Children of the 90s as it moves into its next phase. This unique project is helping us understand how the interaction between our genes and lifestyle helps determine our health and wellbeing throughout our lifetime. Now, by recruiting a third generation the children of the original children the study will help us begin to understand how a child's health is shaped not only by its parents but also by its grandparents. It is a model of open access, an extremely important and world-class resource to the wider scientific community.'

Professor Sally Macintyre, Director of the Medical Research Council's Social and Public Health Sciences Unit and a member of MRC Council added:

'Time and again we've seen the value of cohort studies in providing us with fascinating new information. The MRC is committed to driving forward research into health and wellbeing from childhood through to old age, which is why we continue to support the Children of the 90s project.'


Contact: Dara O'Hare
University of Bristol

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