The 45 and Up Study embarks on a new round of data-gathering to shape research into healthy ageing for years to come

The Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study – Australia’s largest ongoing health and ageing study – is set to become an even more powerful driver of health and wellbeing research as it launches a major new data-gathering exercise.

From this week, the Study will be sending out almost 200,000 confidential surveys to its participants, in a huge and complex operation that will take around three years to complete in its entirety. Study participants will be responding to over 130 questions on their lifestyle, diet, physical and mental health, wellbeing, health service use and more, making this one of the most exhaustive surveys of Australians’ health ever undertaken.

This fourth round of surveys since the 45 and Up Study’s inception in 2005 will add major value to what is already a globally significant asset. The Study will soon be able to provide researchers with 20 years of detailed self-reported data to explore and discover factors that change over time and are critical to ageing healthily, covering areas such as heart disease, dementia, mental health, disability, impacts of events such as pandemics, drought or flood, gaps in access to care and much more.

“We’re incredibly excited about the growing research potential of the 45 and Up Study as we continue to accumulate data and we are so grateful to all our participants,” said Sax Institute CEO Dr Martin McNamara.

“Many leading causes of illness and death – such as cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions – take years to emerge across the population. Tracing who gets these diseases over time, and comparing that with their lifestyle and other information, gives us critical evidence to improve health and wellbeing through better targeted, evidence-based policies and service design. Being able to follow hundreds of thousands of people on their health journey over time is the key strength of our Study, which will only be further enhanced by this new round of data-gathering.”

A huge amount of thought, consultation and planning has gone into the development of the latest survey, said Dr Kerrin Bleicher, Director of Research Assets at the Sax Institute.

“We’ve focused on what information is going to be needed by researchers and decision makers over the next decade. To create this survey, we’ve met with dozens of experts across aged care, dementia, heart disease, cancer and wellbeing.”

She noted that a lot has changed since the Study’s last major survey commenced five years ago.

“We’ve experienced a pandemic and many of us have also been impacted by floods and bushfires. Our survey reflects this, with new questions on major events that help explain what impact they have on our wellbeing.”

The survey also includes new questions on vaping, long Covid, chronic pain, experience of loneliness, financial stress, carer experiences, sleep, exercise and social activities, Dr Bleicher added.

Covering one in 10 adults in NSW aged over 45 at the initial recruitment period, the 45 and Up Study is one of the largest long-term studies of health and ageing in the world. It has already been used by more than 800 researchers and provided data for over 500 research papers, many of which have informed health and prevention strategies and helped plan health services in Australia and across the globe.

Among other landmark results, research using the Study has demonstrated the link between prolonged sitting and mortality; contributed to a better understanding of the role of BMI in health and mortality risk; changed tobacco control approaches by showing far greater mortality risks than previously realised; quantified the mortality risks of moderate alcohol consumption; and explored gender bias in the treatment of heart disease.

Find out more about the 45 and Up Study here.