Opportunity to shape health research through new 45 and Up Study questions

Health agencies and organisations are being invited to collaborate on the questions to be sent to around 200,000 participants in the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study, as part of the Study’s upcoming fourth survey wave – an unrivalled opportunity for organisations to influence research into high-priority health issues for years to come.

The 45 and Up Study is Australia’s largest ongoing study of health and ageing, and one of the largest cohort studies in the world. The Study’s participants contribute self-reported data through confidential surveys every five years, with the fourth such ‘wave’ being planned for mid-2023.

The fourth wave is a huge and complex data-gathering exercise that will take around three years to complete. During September and October 2022, the Sax Institute is inviting input from interested organisations on the questions to be sent to participants, which will add significant value to the Study’s already vast data holdings and allow researchers to see how the health of participants has evolved over a 20-year period.

Dr Kerrin Bleicher, who leads the Sax 45 and Up Study team, says the opportunity for organisations to partner with the Sax Institute to design new questions or entire modules, offers researchers, institutes, policy organisations and others “a unique but time-limited opportunity to make a big impact in their area by getting involved in the development of these surveys”.

“It’s a window of opportunity for any organisation with an interest in health, ageing, social care and equity of outcomes to discuss adding new questions – or even entire modules of questions – to the survey before it goes into the field,” says Dr Bleicher.

“Once in the survey, any new questions can go to the full cohort of around 200,000 people. This is a chance to create real value in a specific area, generating data that researchers and policy makers will be able to use for years to come.”

The 45 and Up Study: A powerful research tool for a wide range of health topics

Researchers and policy makers can use the Study to examine how the impact of chronic conditions, disability, mental health, different models of care and more, plays out over two decades. Survey data can be linked to a large range of datasets, including Medicare, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, hospital administrative data, immunisation data, and much more.

Covering one in 10 adults in NSW aged over 45 at the initial recruitment period, the Study already includes large cohorts that can support statistically powerful research into topic areas such as aged care, disability, specific age bands, specific ethnic groups, CALD communities, and more. The diversity of the participants enables research into equity of health care access and effectiveness and variation in health outcomes across populations and regions.

Dr Bleicher says examples of input from researchers and policy makers in past surveys include questions on risk factors and behaviours, vaccinations, mental health and well-being, missed health care, housing and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Study has been used by 800 researchers and generated more than 500 research papers, many of which have informed health and prevention strategies in Australia and worldwide.

“I’d strongly encourage anyone interested in discussing potential new questions for the survey to get in touch with us as soon as possible to discuss options,” Dr Bleicher says.

“We’re very open to exploring new ways of how we can support medium and longer-term collaborations with interested organisations regarding survey content and use of outputs.”

The Study also offers an opportunity to evaluate health programs, and the upcoming round of new surveys is likewise an opportunity for agencies and researchers to contribute questions to inform both current and future evaluation projects.

The 45 and Up Study team will be finalising survey content by late November 2022. If you’d like to get involved in developing questions for our new surveys, please contact Dr Bleicher by 21 November at kerrin.bleicher@saxinstitute.org.au .