Updated: 7 months ago
Location: London, ENGLAND
Deadline: 03 Jan 2020

UCL Department / Division
MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing
Location of position
Duration of Studentship
3 years
circa £17,009
Vacancy Information

The mission of the LHA is to identify biological and social factors that affect lifelong health, ageing and the development of chronic disease, and to use findings to design and test interventions that enhance healthy ageing. The MRC LHA is an interdisciplinary unit and our research combines rich biological, social and psychological data from across the life course, with molecular, genetic and imaging measures to help us lead on discoveries into life course determinants of physical and mental function in older age, as well as ways to maintain of independence in older age.

LHA is offering a 3 year PhD project for an outstanding student in the specific research area detailed below.  During the PhD the student will be encouraged to take part in taught methods and statistics courses, seminar series and present their findings at national and international conferences.

Studentship Description

Project: Investigating cross-cohort stability in the associations between mental health, weight and health related behaviours and their impact on healthy ageing

Supervisors: Praveetha Patalay, Alun Hughes and Richard Silverwood

This PhD project aims to use data from a series of national birth cohort studies (the 1946, 1958 and 1970 birth cohorts) to investigate: 1) whether the associations between mental health, BMI and health related behaviours (such as smoking and drinking alcohol) across the life course is changing across cohorts, 2) whether the changes in the age of onset and extent of co-occurrence of these health outcomes is associated with health, especially co-occurring conditions (multimorbidity) and quality of life at older ages.

Background: The top ten health conditions that contribute to global disease burden in high income countries (measured using DALYs) include depression and anxiety (common mental health disorders), alcohol and smoking linked conditions (alcohol use disorders, lung cancers and heart disease) and diabetes. Notably, these are all non-communicable conditions which have early life risk factors that include mental health, adiposity and substance use (nicotine, alcohol).

Evidence over many decades in the UK shows that obesity has increased exponentially in the last few decades, and similarly common mental health difficulties are also increasing across generations. On the other hand, rates of smoking have been consistently decreasing between generations since the 1970’s and there is some evidence for shifts in alcohol consumption patterns over time as well. Given these changing trends, it is plausible that their associations with each other and with other health outcomes change across generations. A key aim of this PhD is to investigate the stability (or conversely dynamicity) of these exposure-outcome associations across time using Britain’s unique series of birth cohorts.

Each of these health outcomes and behaviours has known associations with health and disease in later life. This project will examine these links across cohorts and importantly begin to establish the extent of the additive (or potentially multiplicative) effects of experiencing co-occurring risk factors (e.g. obesity and high psychological distress) on multi-morbidity and quality of life in older age.

Who might be interested in this PhD: someone interested in population health and how trends in different population health indicators are relevant for understanding health and disease in ageing. A background in epidemiology, statistics, psychology, demography, or any other relevant discipline would be desirable. This is a quantitative project using existing birth cohort study data, an interest/aptitude in data analysis and advanced quantitative skills will be expected.

Person Specification
A first class or 2:1 UK Bachelor’s degree in an appropriate subject.  Preference will be given to candidates holding a recognised Master’s degree with a merit or distinction award, or with equivalent research experience.

Please check the MRC website for eligibility requirements.

Contact name
Jane Johnson
Contact details
UCL Taking Action for Equality
Closing Date
3 Jan 2020
Latest time for the submission of applications
5:00 pm
Interview date
15 January 2020
Studentship Start Date
September 2020
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