The Lineage of Woman

Understanding how healthy ageing is affected by what happens during the whole of a person's lifetime, from conception onwards

HALCyon will use interdisciplinary and integrative research to improve the lives of older people by understanding better how healthy ageing is affected by social, psychological and biological factors operating across the whole of life.


The four main objectives of the first phase of HALCyon were to:

1) investigate how individual ageing is subject to different influences over the life course

2) understand, through qualitative research, the dynamic ways in which the meaning and experience of ageing are changing and diversifying

3) encourage and support the development of innovative multidisciplinary research groups and methods that can benefit ageing research

4) provide a sound evidence base for policy and practice so that research contributes to the quality of life of older people.

Nine cohorts

We do this by bringing together nine UK cohort studies for comparative research.  These studies cover 30,000 men and women born between 1918 and 1958, and who were aged 50 and older at the start of the programme in 2008.

Cohort studies follow up a group of people over time to gather repeated measures of life experiences and health status. This is extremely valuable as the measures can be used to predict those individuals who age well, and to understand the processes of ageing. The UK is unique in having a number of cohorts, some starting from birth, that have such detailed information.

Aspects of Healthy Ageing

Using the wealth of existing data in these cohort studies, supplemented by new data and biological measures, we are studying three aspects of healthy ageing:

1) physical and cognitive capability, representing the capacity to undertake the physical and mental tasks of everyday living.

2) psychological and social wellbeing representing how people feel  and how they function in terms of relationships and social activities.

3) the underlying biology of ageing, examining how physiological systems (including cortisol, one of the body's stress hormones), telomere length (the cell's natural clock that tells the body how old it is) and genetic factors relate to capability and wellbeing.

We are looking for:

  • Inter-relationships between indicators of capability, wellbeing and biological ageing
  • How these indicators and inter-relationships change with age
  • Common lifetime determinants

Using innovative methods, we are testing a series of life course hypotheses across these cohorts that investigate how ageing is influenced by:

  • Lifetime socioeconomic position and social roles
  • Childhood growth and adult body size
  • Prior physical and mental health
  • Childhood cognition and personality
  • Diet, physical activity and other health behaviours
  • Characteristics of geographical areas in which study members have lived

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