McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Investment in Canadian knowledge of aging renewed

Published: March 9, 2015
Tour of McMaster Health Campus
Participant in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) has her blood pressure checked.

A major study that will provide in-depth understanding of aging for decades has received a shot in the arm. The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) has received a $41.6 million grant through the Government of Canada to continue its work for the next five years.

The most comprehensive study of aging ever undertaken in Canada began in 2010 and is led by researchers at McMaster, McGill and Dalhousie universities, and has data collection sites in St. John's, N.L.; Halifax, N.S.; Sherbrooke and Montreal, Que.; Ottawa and Hamilton, Ont.; Winnipeg, Man.; Calgary, Alta.; and Vancouver, Victoria and Surrey, B.C.

A total of 50,000 Canadians are being followed over 20 years to provide information which can be used to improve understanding on subjects ranging from disease development to how social habits may affect how someone ages, and ultimately promote healthy aging. The funding is from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).

CLSA participant Laura Ramsay, who lives in Hamilton, Ont., says the CLSA has the potential to transform understanding of the aging process, and is pleased she was one of those recruited to contribute to this new wealth of knowledge.

"The in-home interview and visit to the data collection site were both interesting and informative experiences for me, and I was impressed with the professional and comprehensive nature of how information is being gathered from people," said Ramsay. "As someone who has always enjoyed relatively good health, as I enter the final decades of my life I want to know as much as possible about how to maintain that health, and the CLSA will help to provide that kind of information."

The CLSA was launched through $50 million in grants from CIHR, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, several provinces and universities, as well as other partners to set up the research platform, recruit participants and collect data from participants.

So far, hour-long telephone interviews have been done with more than 21,000 individuals aged 45 to 85 randomly selected from across the country. An additional 26,000 have taken part in extensive home interviews plus visited one of 11 data collection sites across the country to undergo a range of physical tests such as hearing, heart function, bone density, mobility and many other measures related to overall health. The final participants required to reach 50,000 are now being recruited, and all participants will be followed for 20 years, with interviews and data collection repeated once every three years.

Parminder Raina
Parminder Raina, Director, Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging at McMaster University, and the Raymond and Margaret Labarge Chair in Research and Knowledge Application for Optimal Aging

The CLSA has operations in several cities across the country. The National Coordinating Centre and the Biorepository and Bioanalysis Centre are based at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., the Statistical Analysis Centre is at the Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Que., and the Genetics and Epigenetics Centre is at the University of British Columbia. Telephone interview centres and data collection sites are spread across the country.

The study is being led by Parminder Raina, a McMaster professor and holder of both the Canada Research Chair in Geroscience, and the Raymond and Margaret Labarge Chair in Research and Knowledge Application for Optimal Aging, along with co-principal investigators Susan Kirkland of Dalhousie University in Halifax, and Christina Wolfson of McGill University in Montreal.

"This funding is a strong vote of confidence in the importance of improving Canadians' health through a better understanding of the aging process," said Raina. "We are gathering a broad range of information on biological, medical, psychological, social, lifestyle and economic aspects of people's lives."

A key feature of the CLSA is that its data will be used by researchers from many disciplines across the country. Data from more than 21,000 participants who took part in telephone interviews are now available. Already researchers have made requests for data to further research on topics such as hearing loss, neurological conditions, injuries and the health of older veterans.

To learn more about the study, visit the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) website.


Factbox about the CLSA:

  • More than 160 researchers from 26 Canadian universities are involved in the study, including experts in biology, genetics, clinical research, social sciences, economics, epidemiology and population health.
  • Eleven data collection sites, four computer-assisted telephone interview sites, and four centres involved in the collection and storage of data employ more than 250 people across the country.
  • A total of 21,241 hour-long telephone interviews have been completed, and most of the data generated through the interviews are now available for researchers to apply to use.
  • A total of 26,115 other people have taken part in the more extensive in-home interviews and visited a data collection site to provide blood and urine samples and to undergo a range of other physical and health measures.
  • The final participants needed to reach the goal of 30,000 people for in-home interviews and data collection are now being recruited.
  • 95% of participants who have finished their first interviews and been contacted for follow-up have remained in the study.

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