December/January research news highlights

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Selected highlights of journal papers and other research published from December 2017 to January 2018 using data from CLOSER’s eight longitudinal studies.

Female reproduction and childhood psychosocial adversity

Research using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) investigated the association between childhood psychosocial adversity and female reproduction. The research, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, looked at mothers’ reports of experiencing different types of psychosocial adversity when they were children, such as parental divorce, parental mental illness and sexual abuse. They then examined this in relation to the age they reported starting their period and the menopause. The team, led by Dr Maria Magnus, of the University of Bristol, concluded that overall childhood psychosocial adversity was not associated with female reproductive timing. However, experiencing childhood sexual abuse was linked with a lower age of starting menstrual periods and the menopause.

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Understanding the links between smoking and psychosis

A new paper, published in JAMA Psychiatry, used ALSPAC data to investigate whether smoking cigarettes and cannabis is linked to psychosis. Information on participants’ use of cigarettes and cannabis was reported between the ages of 14 and 19. The researchers investigated a possible connection to psychosis by looking at data collected from participants when they were 18. Led by the University of Bristol’s Dr Hannah Jones, the team found that individuals who smoked cigarettes and cannabis during adolescence had an increased risk of subsequent psychotic experiences.

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High-impact physical activity in later adulthood

A team of researchers, led by Dr Ahmed Elhakeem, of the University of Bristol, has used data from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study, the 1946 National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD), and the Cohort for Skeletal Health in Bristol and Avon, to understand which factors are linked to high-impact physical activity, such as jogging and running, in later life. The study, which was published in the Journal of Public Health, found that a number of factors, such as lower education, slower walking speed and poorer self-rated health were all independently associated with lower levels of high-impact physical activity in adults aged between 69 and 88 years old. The researchers concluded that certain groups of people, such as those with lower education, may benefit from supportive interventions to increase higher impact physical activity and prevent osteoporosis.

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Risk factors for developing urgency urinary infections in later life

A new study published in bioRxiv used data from NSHD to examine the risk factors for developing urgency urinary incontinence (UUI) at age 68. The research team, led by UCL’s Dr Alex Tsui, found that UUI was reported by 12 per cent of men and 19 per cent of women. Being female, increased BMI and hypertension in men, at ages 60 to 64, were each independent risk factors for developing UUI.

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Social environment and Epstein-Barr virus

Research using the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) age 3 survey data has investigated the relationship between social environment and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a type of herpes. The paper, published in Epidemiology & Infection, was a collaboration between a team of researchers based in France. They found that, on average, children from less privileged homes had an increased risk of EBV infection at age 3. They also identified that lower rates of EBV infection were observed in children living in towns and rural areas compared with those living in cities.

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Social class and cognitive ability

Research published in The British Journal of Sociology has looked at the relationship between social class and cognitive ability test scores. The paper, authored by Roxanne Connelly, of the University of Warwick, and Vernon Gayle, of the University of Edinburgh, used data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS) birth, age 7 and age 11 sweeps. In addition, they analysed data from the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) birth, age 5 and age 10 sweeps. They found that parental social class was associated with children’s cognitive test scores, with pupils from lower social class families doing less well, on average.

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Preterm birth and cognitive development

A new paper published in US journal, Pediatrics has examined whether early term birth and poverty is linked to children’s cognitive test scores, at ages 3, 5 and 7. The researchers based at Emory University, USA, analysed MCS data to find that children born preterm (<37 weeks) or early term (37–38 weeks) tended to score more poorly on cognitive assessments than children born at term (39-40 weeks).

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Do flexible work policies improve parents’ health?

A new article published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health has examined whether a policy that grants parents the right to request flexible working patterns helps to improve their health and wellbeing. The paper, authored by researchers based at King’s College London, and, Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques, France, used MCS data from ages 9 months, 3, 5 and 7. A small group of mothers had started working flexibly, as a result of the UK Flexible Working Act (2003), but the researchers did not find any association between this and improved health and wellbeing.

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The development of non-allergic asthma in childhood

New research from UCL has studied whether excess weight plays a role in the relationship between socioeconomic position and non-allergic asthma. The paper published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, used data from MCS surveys at ages 9 months, 3, 7, 11 and 14. The findings revealed that excess weight at age 7 did not change the direct link between socioeconomic position and non-allergic asthma. The results suggest that improving socioeconomic conditions and promoting healthy weight are both important in reducing the development of non-allergic asthma.

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