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MRC National Survey of Health and Development Cohort /1946 Birth Cohort (NSHD/ 1946BC)

About the cohort

Start date: 1946
Age at recruitment: 0
Sample size at recruitment: 5,362
Estimated current sample size: 3,116

The NSHD has informed UK health care, education and social policy for more than 50 years and is the oldest and longest running of the British birth cohort studies. Today, with study members in their sixties, the NSHD offers a unique opportunity to explore the long-term biological and social processes of ageing and how ageing is affected by factors acting across the whole of life. From an initial maternity survey of 13,687 of all births recorded in England, Scotland and Wales during one week of March, 1946, a socially stratified sample of 5,362 singleton babies born to married parents was selected for follow-up. This sample comprises the NSHD cohort and participants have been studied 23 times throughout their life.

During their childhood, the main aim of the NSHD was to investigate how the environment at home and at school affected physical and mental development and educational attainment. During adulthood, the main aim was to investigate how childhood health and development and lifetime social circumstances affected their adult health and function and how these change with age.

Now, as participants reach retirement, the research team is developing the NSHD into a life course study of ageing.  Study members attended a clinic at age 60-64 and more recently completed a postal questionnaire in 2014.  They will be invited to participate in a home visit in 2015, collecting data on health, lifestyle and life circumstances as well as obtaining repeat physical and cognitive measurements.  Over the next two years, a subset of 500 study members will also be invited to participate in a neuroimaging sub-study.  This study will be conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Neurology, UCL.

NSHD is part of CLOSER (Cohort & Longitudinal Studies Enhancement Resources) which aims to maximise the use, value and impact of the UK’s longitudinal studies.

NSHD is part of the Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), a multi-million pound public-private partnership to accelerate progress in dementias research http://www.mrc.ac.uk/research/facilities-and-resources-for-researchers/dementias-platform-uk/

Core funders

  • Medical Research Council


Website: http://www.nshd.mrc.ac.uk

Principal Investigator: Professor Diana Kuh


MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL
33 Bedford Place
London WC1B 5JU



General enquiries: mrclha.enquiries@ucl.ac.uk
Data access:mrclha.swiftinfo@ucl.ac.uk   

Tel: + 44 + (0) 20 7670 5700

Page last updated: 13 Mar 2015


  • Gender: Male, Female
  • Sample size: 5,000-9,999
  • Age: 0 to 9, 10 to 19, 20 to 39, 40 to 59, 60 to 100
  • Anthropometric: Height, Weight, Waist circumference, Hip circumference, Blood pressure
  • Physical: Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Musculoskeletal, Hearing and vision, Reproductive
  • Psychological: Mental health, Cognitive function
  • Lifestyle: Smoking, Physical activity, Dietary habits, Alcohol
  • Socio-economic: Occupation, Finances, Family circumstances, Housing, Education, Ethnic group, Marital status, Social support
  • Biological samples: Blood, Urine, Saliva, Other