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

March 31, 2011

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: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.'
-end-
Notes to editors

1. Professor George Davey Smith, Scientific Director, is available for interview. Three generations (a mother, daughter and granddaughter) involved in the study are available for interview/photos. For all interview requests, contact Dara O'Hare, Communications Manager, Children of the 90s on 0117 331 0077 or 07891 549144 or email dara.ohare@bristol.ac.uk.

2. Based in Bristol, Children of the 90s, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and their Children (ALSPAC), is known the world over. It is a long-term health research project that enrolled more than 14,000 pregnant women in 1991 and 1992. It has been following the health and development of the mothers and their children in great detail ever since. It works with scientists throughout the UK and worldwide and its research findings have been published internationally.

3. Find out more about Children of the 90s on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjOf0GTTliE. Film courtesy of the Wellcome Trust.

University of Bristol

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