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Approved Research

The effect of fitness, and social activities on all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease and cancer morbidity and mortality.

Principal Investigator: Professor Suixin Liu
Approved Research ID: 93586
Approval date: January 16th 2023

Lay summary

The older population around the globe continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. The ageing population is particularly susceptible to cardiovascular diseases, with this being the largest cause of death amongst over 65 year olds in developed nations followed by cancer. Action must be taken to plan research and develop strategies to promote survivability and longevity and the idea of "healthy long life".

Good fitness, balanced diet, along with a healthy social environment are the foundations upon which good physical and mental health is built. As such, health interventions commonly use a certain exercise methodology to improve cardio-respiratory fitness, or the reduction of sedentary behaviour to assess the improvements in physical or mental health.  However, what has been somewhat neglected in research, are social activities along with the specific differences within types of physical and social activities and the roles they can play in improving age-related health issues. The social environment a person is in can be of great consequence to health and the development of detrimental health practices. Investigating this, along with behaviours that may be moderated, could provide evidence towards developing effective interventions and aiding in the promotion of public health.

Therefore, the primary aim of this project is to investigate the effects and associations between different types of fitness, physical and social activities,  with all-cause mortality, cause-specific mortality, and incidences of CHD and cancer and whether these associations remain consistent pre/post-retirement. The secondary aims include to study the effect of differing forms of fitness and social activities and lifestyle choices  on quality of life through disease incidence, psychological well-being and cognitive decline.

The overall project is estimated to last 3 years. From this project, knowledge may be gained as to what forms of modifiable behaviours and social practices may be of most benefit to people of older ages to improve quality of life and those younger to promote the idea of healthy ageing.  Further, there are certain implications for clinical practice and health policy and it can be suggested that interventions and trials should involve social activity along with physical activity to formulate a common practice technique to maximize social activity's potential in health.

Scope extension:

Of the worlds population, those aged 60 years and older will double (2.1 billion) by 2050. The estimated number of persons aged 80 years or over is expected to triple, reaching 426 million. While global life expectancy increases, further research in health promotion and effective interventions may prove pivotal to secure a greater quality of life and reduce disease burden as we welcome a demographic shift the likes of which have never before been seen.

The primary aim of this project is to investigate the effects and associations of different types of fitness, and social activities on all-cause mortality and coronary heart disease, and cancer mortality and morbidity in a large, prospective, population-based cohort, and whether this change is different amongst people retired and those currently working.

The secondary aims of this project include studying the effect of different forms of fitness, social activities, and lifestyle choices on the quality of life through disease incidence, psychological well-being, and cognitive decline. Thereafter the aim will be to gain further insights into the roles that these play in the development of disease and cognitive disorders in middle-aged and older adults.

We propose an extension of our current project scope to incorporate an investigation into the potential roles of Blood-biochemical factors, Urine analysis measures, and Genomic markers (such as polygenic risk scores) in predicting the incidence and mortality of noncommunicable chronic diseases in the aging population. This investigation will provide more precise insights into specific risk factors or 'protective' factors by which lifestyle, fitness, and social activities and habits influence disease states. Furthermore, we will explore how these measures correlate with mental health status and cognitive states, the incidence of cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality and morbidity. We also analyse the impact of these on healthy life expectancy on a population scale. Understanding these risk factors or 'protective' factors may guide the development of personalized preventive strategies and therapeutic interventions. This multidimensional analysis will deepen our understanding of aging and health, thus enabling the creation of comprehensive strategies to improve the quality of life among older adults.