Search this site

Findings from the NSHD and future plans

Researchers from the NSHD will talk about their recent findings, as well as their plans for the future.

Note: Holding slides with no sound for the first 4:30min.

Mental Ageing Q&A

What do you mean by you mentioned ACE III association... is this correlation or causality?

Form this analysis alone we can only technically claim correlation.  The life course variables (father’s occupation, mother’s education, own cognitive development, education, own occupational complexity, National Adult Reading Test [NART]) may indeed have causal relationships with the ACE-III, but we would need further analyses to be truly confident about this.  However, I think we can be reasonably confident that the associations within cognitive function (childhood cognition to the NART, NART to ACE-III and childhood cognition directly to ACE-III) are indeed causal.

Could you repeat the name of the researcher into 'day dreaming'?

David Winnicott (, who happens to be a hero of mine.

Among many other things he wrote about childhood daydreaming:


I suffered a stroke and spent 8 weeks in hospital. How is recovery handled in the data.

We can look to see if your performance on the various measures of physical capability (grip strength, walking speed, standing balance) differs from those who did not have a condition that could affect this.  We can do this directly by comparing two groups, e.g. those who did and did not have a stroke.

However, since stroke is still relatively rare in the cohort, more commonly we perform what is called a ‘sensitivity’ analysis, where we look at predictors of physical capability across the whole cohort, then see if results are similar when we repeat the analysis after taking out those with stroke.


What role does working late in life play in ageing?

We haven’t yet looked at this in NSHD, but studies elsewhere (for example using the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study) suggest that voluntary delayed retirement is associated with higher cognitive function, whereas the opposite tends to be true for early retirement on medical grounds).

We do however plan to look at this carefully in NSHD, where you provided detailed information on timing of, reasons for, and life course predictors of, retirement.


Aluminium, found especially in deodorants, is known to be a major contributory factor in dementia.  Pressure needs to be exerted to move away from this.

I’m not an expert on this, but from what I can see this is not supported by research:

Ditto for aluminium in pots and pans:


Only 49% of the original participants are still active. Have any conclusions been drawn from the known histories of those who have withdrawn, died, or with whom contact has been lost? For example, are there any common factors in premature deaths or in the social background of those who have withdrawn? Is there any ongoing research into the "lost" participants?

To answer the last question first, we cannot obtain new data from participants who have permanently withdrawn from the study, most importantly because we do not have their consent for this. What we do know, however, is that those who have withdrawn tend to be less healthy and less economically and socially advantaged than participants who remain in the study; this is consistent with most longitudinal health studies in the world.

Regarding premature death, my colleague Dan Davis found that this was predicted by cognitive function in early midlife:


Could you expand on the beneficial effects of education?

Some people have argued that education is nothing more than a ‘proxy for IQ’, and by extension that it’s all in our genes and there’s nothing we can do to change our cognitive capability.  At the risk of getting political, this view was revived by Dominic Cummings when he was advisor to Michael Gove at the Department of Education during the coalition government: it’s not education that’s important but the abilities that children already have and bring to the classroom that matter.  I think the evidence from NSHD strongly argues against this, since the path model in my first slide clearly shows that education is associated with later cognitive function even after taking account of cognitive development.  You can look at the paper itself via this link, and see that I refer to this issue in the Discussion: 

Or if you prefer, here’s a letter I wrote in response to  one of the ‘proxy for IQ’ proponents:


As far as you are aware were the original intelligence tests comparable with the 11 plus?

Unfortunately, my copy of the The Home and the School by James Douglas, who founded the NSHD and had a particular interest in this, is currently locked down in my office.  But I think yes, the age 11 tests were designed approximately to mimic the 11 plus, so that Douglas and future colleagues  could investigate the relationship between cognitive ability, the kind of school participants went to, and what resulting long-term attainment looked like, since these were not always closely linked, particularly for women.


Wearables Q&A

Can I keep the watch?

Yes, we’re very pleased to say that you will be able to keep the watch.

When are we due to receive the watch?

We plan to start this part of the study later this year.

Will the watch know if I have fallen over?

No, falls cannot currently be detected. This is due to the large amount of data that is collected by the watch, that then requires processing. However, this functionality is something that we are very keen to investigate, and with your participation, our aim is to work towards achieving this.

Can it be worn as a pendant?

No, the watch has been designed to be worn on the wrist only.

Do I have to wear the watch all the time?

We would like you to wear the watch continuously, if possible. However, we recognise that there may be some occasions when you cannot, or do not want to, wear the watch and this would not prevent you participating in the study. Wearing the watch during the day and night enables the collection of very valuable information relating to your daytime activities (step count, activity level and heart rate) as well as sleep patterns (duration of sleep, skin temperature, oxygen levels and breathing rate) as accurately as possible. This also enables us to look at daily and weekly trends.

I bike a lot more than walk. Would this gadget record that too?

Yes! It will use the GPS to track the ride.

Will it measure blood pressure?

No, the watch does not measure blood pressure.

Would this involve smart technology?

Yes, this watch connects to a smartphone.

Will I need to have a smartphone?

Yes, it will require a compatible smartphone running an operating system of Apple iOS 12.2 or higher, or Android OS 7.0 or higher. Most mobile phones in the UK are smartphones and would meet this specification. If you do not have access to a smartphone and wish to participate we will be able to provide a basic phone that meets the requirements.

Is the watch related to 5G?

The watch does not use 5G. It will not connect to 5GHz, 802.11ac, WPA enterprise, or public Wi-Fi networks that require logins, subscriptions, or profiles.

Is the watch waterproof?

The watch is water-resistant to 50 meters.

Will data sending use up our phone allowance?

There are two steps to the data synchronisation process:

  1. The watch and the phone communicate via Bluetooth to synchronize the data between the two. This process does not require an internet connection and does not use your phone data allowance.  
  2. The data is then uploaded to the central server via the phone’s internet connection. This generally uses WiFi but can use the phone data allowance. If you choose, we can restrict the upload to only upload data when the phone is connected to WiFi. If you do wish to use the phone allowance (e.g. if you are in a location where there is no WiFi connection) then the phone data allowance usage for upload is very small. 

Is there a way of letting you know conditions drugs etc?

We are developing a custom phone application (app) that will allow you to record relevant health conditions, medications or other factors that may influence your readings. The app will also help you to perform some health tests at home and provide some feedback on your results.