News at Medicine - May 2009 - Unlocking the mysteries of aging

Unlocking the mysteries of aging
May 22, 2009
Six Memorial University investigators are involved in a new federally funded study that will increase the understanding of common health problems affecting seniors.

“This long-term study of 50,000 Canadians will look into the many factors affecting us as we age, while at the same time creating several new science-related jobs,” said David Sweet, Member of Parliament for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, who made the announcement May 21 in Hamilton on behalf of the federal Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq.

The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) will be one of the most comprehensive studies on aging ever undertaken. The Government of Canada is investing $30 million to support this study.

“About $1.5 million of the project funding will come to Newfoundland and Labrador, with many millions over time as the project unfolds,” said Dr. Gerry Mugford, principal investigator for the Newfoundland site. Drs. Patrick Parfrey, Anne Sclater, Marshall Godwin, Proton Rahman and Don MacDonald form the dynamic core group of local co-investigators with direct management assistance from Elizabeth Hatfield.

The study will follow 50,000 Canadians, aged 45-85 years (at the time of recruitment), over the next two decades. It is estimated that study organizers will be hiring as many as 160 researchers and research co-ordinators, laboratory staff and IT systems personnel over the next year at 10 centres across the country.

Researchers will collect information on the changing biological, medical, psychological, social and economic aspects of the participants’ lives. The design and extended follow-up of the CLSA will enable the study team to look at more than a brief snapshot of the adult Canadian population and to critically examine health transitions and trajectories over a longer-term period. Statistics Canada has committed important and invaluable in-kind contributions to the design of the survey and the recruitment of participants.

CLSA participants will be randomly selected from across Canada and, as such, Canadians will not be able to proactively volunteer to be part of the study. Once enrolled, participants will be studied at three-year intervals and will be followed for at least 20 years.

“In Newfoundland we expect to enrol a total of 5,000 participants between the ages of 45 to 85 years to study the determinants of healthy aging,” said Dr. Mugford. “These determinants will include biological, psychosocial and economic factors.” 

The CLSA is a collaboration reflecting the work of principal investigators Dr. Parminder Raina, McMaster University, Dr. Christina Wolfson, McGill University, and Dr. Susan Kirkland, Dalhousie University, together with a multi-disciplinary research team comprised of more than 160 researchers from 26 universities across Canada. 

In addition to starting at mid-life, the CLSA is the first study of its kind to collect social and economical retirement factors, as well as clinical and biological measures. More than 70 longitudinal studies have taken place worldwide and most focused on only one condition or on people over 65 years of age.