Proposal summaries

These are research proposals that have been approved by the ALSPAC exec. The titles include a B number which identifies the proposal and the date on which the proposals received ALSPAC exec approval.

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B4559 - Gambling behaviour and neurodiversity - 18/03/2024

B number: 
B4559
Principal applicant name: 
Tim Morris | UCL (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Title of project: 
Gambling behaviour and neurodiversity
Proposal summary: 

Previous research has shown that harms associated with gambling are wide-ranging, including harms to the individual who gambles and harms to those close to them such as family, friends and colleagues. Gambling harms can manifest in financial, relationship, mental health and cultural problems, impacting individuals across a range of domains. There is evidence that gambling harms affect different groups disproportionately, placing the highest burden on those that are already marginalised and increasing social, economic and health inequalities across society. Despite evidence of this disproportionate experience of gambling harms, there has only recently been a shift in the focus of research away from a ‘catch all’ approach to a focus on the intersections with other harms and inequalities. One major intersection of gambling harm risk is neurodiversity. In this project, we will use data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to investigate the experience of gambling harms by individuals who are neurodiverse and explore how these differ to those experienced by neurotypical individuals.

Impact of research: 
Potential impact upon understanding of gambling harms amongst underrepresented groups that can impact gambling treatment provision.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 6 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 18 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Addiction - e.g. alcohol, illicit drugs, smoking, gambling, etc., Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity

B4562 - Exploring associations between psychotic experiences and religious beliefs and behaviours - 18/03/2024

B number: 
B4562
Principal applicant name: 
Daniel Major-Smith | University of Bristol
Co-applicants: 
Grace Obo, Dr Isaac Halstead, Dr Hannah Jones
Title of project: 
Exploring associations between psychotic experiences and religious beliefs and behaviours
Proposal summary: 

Psychotic experiences, such as hallucinations or delusions, are associated with numerous negative health outcomes. Previous work suggests a potential relationship between psychotic experiences and religious beliefs and behaviours, which may moderate or mediate associations between psychotic experiences and negative health outcomes, yet findings are contradictory and high-quality studies are rare. We therefore plan to use ALSPAC data to explore these relationships in more detail.

Impact of research: 
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 7 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 18 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Mental health, Cognition - cognitive function

B4563 - A life course approach to the relationship between adverse childhood events and later mental health - 18/03/2024

B number: 
B4563
Principal applicant name: 
Dan Major-Smith | University of Bristol
Co-applicants: 
Huong Tran, My Jimmy Morgan
Title of project: 
A life course approach to the relationship between adverse childhood events and later mental health
Proposal summary: 

Adverse childhood events (ACEs) are a known cause of subsequent negative health and social outcomes, such as mental health problems. However, the life course trajectory of these ACEs on subsequent mental health – e.g., whether they are felt immediately, take years to manifest or persist over time – is not clear. We plan on using longitudinal ACEs data in ALSPAC to answer this question.

Impact of research: 
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 7 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 18 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Mental health, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity

B4570 - Centre for Longitudinal Smart Data CLSD -- Unlocking the Potential Pioneering Smart Data Integration For Health Research - 12/04/2024

B number: 
B4570
Principal applicant name: 
Anya Skatova | University of Bristol
Co-applicants: 
Dr Romana Burgess, Dr Neo Poon
Title of project: 
Centre for Longitudinal Smart Data (CLSD) -- Unlocking the Potential: Pioneering Smart Data Integration For Health Research
Proposal summary: 

Led by Universities of Bristol, Edinburgh and University College London, and in collaboration with academic, industry and government partners from across the UK, the Centre aims to dramatically improve understanding of health and wellbeing by revolutionising how researchers can use and access data.

The rise of the internet and digital technologies such as mobile phones and wearable technology like smart watches over the last few decades has meant that more data than ever before has been collected about us. This data can reveal important information about who we are and what we do. These types of data are called Smart Data. Historically, much of the data used by researchers into how our actions and behaviours might affect our health and wellbeing has been collected through studies called Longitudinal Population Studies (LPSs). These studies typically run for many decades, and follow the same individuals through the course of their lives which can show how behaviours and health change over a long period of time. The methods for collecting information in LPSs do not normally use Smart Data, and most major studies of this type began before it was available. Both Smart Data and LPS data can provide different types of vital information about how our actions can affect our health, but these two types of data are not often joined up. Our Centre aims to integrate Smart Data into LPSs and will enable researchers to understand and answer questions about health and wellbeing that were previously unattainable through separate efforts.

The Centre will support bringing together Smart Data derived from our everyday interactions with digital services—such as shopping records, wearable sensors, environmental data, banking, and apps—together with the rich Longitudinal Population Studies’ data linked to health and other administrative data in the UK Longitudinal Linkage Collaboration (UK LLC) Trusted Research Environment, supporting cutting edge research for public good. Our ultimate objective is to seamlessly integrate Smart Data into the UK's Longitudinal Population Studies (LPS, or Studies) and make it available to researchers with other key datasets, thereby establishing a pioneering Centre for Longitudinal Smart Data. Through this innovative approach, we will create a platform that will allow scientists to uncover fresh perspectives on lifelong health and wellbeing, enriching our comprehension of people’s health, behaviours and how they change over time. This novel approach holds the potential to transform how we understand and address societal and health challenges.

Our initiative tackles various challenges concerning participant acceptance, ethical considerations, legal frameworks, and beyond. With participants' consent as a cornerstone, the Centre for Longitudinal Smart Data is designed to offer secure access to a diverse range of research-ready Smart Data for authorised researchers. Through close collaboration with study participant advisory groups, we ensure that the use of Smart Data aligns with the preferences and priorities of the participants themselves. This approach prioritises transparency, accountability, and respect for individual choices, fostering a culture of responsible data usage and research ethics.

The Centre establishes a Community of Practice, bringing together experts to tackle the hurdles linked to individual-level Smart Data within the UK's Longitudinal Population Studies. It will strive to foster opportunities for studies across various domains, including wellbeing, health, sustainability, productivity, and digital society.

Impact of research: 
The impact of our research will be transformative, as we aim to create a benchmark for integrating Smart Data into Longitudinal Population Studies (LPSs), forever changing how societal and health challenges are understood and addressed. By providing researchers with unprecedented insights into lifelong health and wellbeing, our approach will inform evidence-based policymaking, drive improvements in public health, and foster innovation. Through the development of novel frameworks, the creation of research-ready data banks, publications, engagement and training opportunities, and proof-of-concept studies, our research has the potential to significantly advance scientific knowledge in the field of Smart Data linkages.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 14 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 18 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Epidemiology

B4560 - Comparing approaches combining multiple imputation with inverse probability weighting - 18/03/2024

B number: 
B4560
Principal applicant name: 
Dan Major-Smith | University of Bristol
Co-applicants: 
Dr Paul Madley-Dowd, Dr Rachael Hughes, Dr Apostolos Gkatzionis, Dr Gemma Clayton, Prof Jon Heron, Prof Kate Tilling
Title of project: 
Comparing approaches combining multiple imputation with inverse probability weighting
Proposal summary: 

Missing data - such as from loss-to-follow-up in longitudinal studies - can lead to bias in analyses, resulting in incorrect conclusions. Various methods have been developed to try and account for such bias due to missing data; two common approaches are Multiple Imputation (MI), where missing data are imputed numerous times, analysed and then combined together, and Inverse-Probability Weighting (IPW), where individuals with observed data are weighted so they represent the original sample. However, sometimes these approaches are insufficient by themselves - e.g., MI may not be appropriate when imputing large swathes of missingness due to potential model misspecification/increased noise, while IPW is more challenging when there is missing data in the covariates of the missingness/weighting model. Given this, there is a need to develop and explore methods which combine MI and IPW to maximise the strengths and minimise the limitations of each approach. While previous work in this area has been conducted, the current approaches cannot easily be applied to complex real-world data such as in ALSPAC and need to be combined to increase their utility to applied researchers (e.g., using MI to impute missing baseline covariate data in the IPW weighting model, followed by IPW to weight participants within a given 'block' of data, then MI again to impute missing data in the substantive analysis model).

Impact of research: 
Hopefully provide a novel methodology for researchers analysing longitudinal datasets which combines the strengths of both MI and IPW.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 6 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 18 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Statistics/methodology, Mental health, Statistical methods, Cohort studies - attrition, bias, participant engagement, ethics, Statistical methods

B4561 - Association of birth weight centiles with infant and childhood growth dynamics - 18/03/2024

B number: 
B4561
Principal applicant name: 
Ahmed Elhakeem | MRC IEU
Co-applicants: 
Title of project: 
Association of birth weight centiles with infant and childhood growth dynamics
Proposal summary: 

The fetal and developmental origins of disease hypothesis suggests that pre-conception (maternal and paternal) and intrauterine (maternal) prenatal factors can influence postnatal health, including growth and adiposity. Birth weight is a marker of intrauterine growth and has been associated with risk of overweight and obesity, as have preterm birth, and small and large for gestational age. To the best of our knowledge, no study has investigated the association between continuous birthweight (for gestational age) centiles beyond the traditional thresholds for small or large for gestational age and longitudinal growth throughout infancy and childhood. This study will address this evidence gap.

Impact of research: 
This will provide evidence on growth patterns based on birth size at a given gestational age. It will use novel growth modelling methods that will be valuable to researchers
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 6 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 18 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Obesity, Pregnancy - e.g. reproductive health, postnatal depression, birth outcomes, etc., Statistical methods, BMI, Cohort studies - attrition, bias, participant engagement, ethics, Growth

B4568 - Genome-wide association study of reproductive hormones - 18/03/2024

B number: 
B4568
Principal applicant name: 
Ahmed Elhakeem | MRC IEU
Co-applicants: 
Abigail Fraser, Cecilia Lindgren
Title of project: 
Genome-wide association study of reproductive hormones
Proposal summary: 

Infertility, defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy within 12 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, affects one in six couples across the globe. A range of environmental and genetic factors may drive infertility, including the age-related decline of sperm and oocyte quality and quantity, infectious diseases, and rare Mendelian disorders such as cystic fibrosis. However, the exact cause remains undetermined in up to 28% of couples and 40% of women with infertility. Given that current treatments such as in vitro fertilisation pose physical, emotional, and financial burdens on couples and healthcare systems, a richer understanding of the biology and pathophysiology of infertility is urgently necessary. This project will conduct a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in ALSPAC and other participating cohorts. In addition, the project will conduct a GWAS of infertility (not in ALSPAC).

Impact of research: 
Novel findings on important health outcomes
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 12 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 18 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Endocrinology, Fertility/infertility, GWAS, Biomarkers - e.g. cotinine, fatty acids, haemoglobin, etc., Genetic epidemiology

B4571 - ART-HEALTH Conception by assisted reproductive technologies and offspring health - 18/03/2024

B number: 
B4571
Principal applicant name: 
Ahmed Elhakeem | MRC IEU
Co-applicants: 
Prof Deborah Lawlor, Dr Naixue Cue
Title of project: 
ART-HEALTH: Conception by assisted reproductive technologies and offspring health
Proposal summary: 

Infertility affects 1 in 6 couples. With increasing numbers of assisted reproductive technology (ART) conceptions, understanding the effects of ART on maternal and offspring health has been designated a major research priority. Research to date has been highlighted as having limited quality and lacking methodological transparency. In ART-HEALTH we use a robust, systematic approach of triangulating different sources of evidence to address this.

Impact of research: 
The project will provide high quality evidence on the health of people born after ART. The findings can establish if offspring born by ART should be followed more closely by medical personnel. The project will provide evidence-based guidelines and recommendations for healthcare providers, reproductive specialists, and legislators to ensure their optimal well-being and long-term health.
Date proposal received: 
Friday, 15 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 18 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Fertility/infertility, Pregnancy - e.g. reproductive health, postnatal depression, birth outcomes, etc., NMR, Birth outcomes, Blood pressure, BMI, Cohort studies - attrition, bias, participant engagement, ethics, Genetic epidemiology, Growth, Mendelian randomisation

B4567 - Anthropogenic Chemicals and Human Health - Non-invasive Human Biomonitoring Pilot Study - 27/03/2024

B number: 
B4567
Principal applicant name: 
Charlie Monkley | School of Chemistry, University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Dr. Charlotte Lloyd, Dr. Alix Groom, Professor George Davey Smith, Chimnaz Emrah
Title of project: 
Anthropogenic Chemicals and Human Health - Non-invasive Human Biomonitoring Pilot Study
Proposal summary: 

This project seeks to develop a non-invasive, human biomonitoring method to assess human exposure to anthropogenically sourced chemicals. In our day to day lives, humans are exposed to a mixture of “man-made” chemicals from the materials we touch, the food we eat or air we breathe. Some of these environmental pollutants may persist and accumulate in the human body, with potentially harmful or unknown health implications. Such chemicals may include pesticides, commercial drugs, flame retardants, combustion products of fuels, plasticisers or cosmetic components. Aside from accumulation in the blood, which would require invasive sampling to assess exposure, some of these anthropogenic chemicals can accumulate in human hair or nails. The focus of this pilot study is to develop an extraction procedure, to separate the target chemicals from hair, and optimised analytical approaches for chemical identification and quantification. For this, hair samples are required for method development. There is potential for this developed method to incentivise funding for additional sampling and analysis of a larger study group. A broader biomonitoring survey may provide valuable insight into chemical exposure sources and persistence both temporally and regionally. Monitoring exposure of chemicals with recognised human health implications may also provide new insight into the incidence of illness and disease.

Impact of research: 
The likely outcome from this pilot study is the acquirement of future medical research funding that extends the biomonitoring study to a wider sample set. This could include more samples collected as part of the ALSPAC project. Regional and population scale human biomonitoring studies using hair samples have already been undertaken in Poland, China, Greece, Canada, India and Luxembourg. Hair sampling of cohort studies have identified decreases in anthropogenically sourced contaminants over time, in line with changes in regulations that ban the use of certain chemicals in commercial products or materials. Legacy contaminants may additionally persist in the environment and the body past regulatory changes, especially in a matrix such as hair that acts as a relatively long term sink to other tissues. Occupational exposure has also become apparent for workers in electric waste facilities being exposed to certain organochlorine contaminants used in the waste products. Detection of contaminants in hair also allows for targeted chemical screening of other tissues and blood to give a better representation of the current chemical burden carried by the body. So, although the outcomes from this pilot study are primarily methodological, the future research that this proposal may incentivise could have profound impacts on the way we monitor chemical exposure, whilst adding a valuable data set to the ALSPAC project.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 12 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Wednesday, 13 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Chemical biomonitoring (analytical chemistry), Chemical exposure and bioaccumulation, Mass spectrometry, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution

B4548 - Intergenerational education persistence and aspirations - 13/03/2024

B number: 
B4548
Principal applicant name: 
Hans van Kippersluis | Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands)
Co-applicants: 
Xinmiao Zhang
Title of project: 
Intergenerational education persistence and aspirations
Proposal summary: 

We try to understand intergenerational inequalities in education. Unraveling the process of human capital transmission over generations is fundamental to uncover the sources of inequality. Understanding the sources of inequality in turn is crucial to design and justify redistribution policies.

The process of human capital transmission is a widely researched topic in economics and social sciences. Given that parents transmit their genes to their children and expose these children to a particular environment at the same time, it is incredibly challenging to disentangle the pathways through which human capital transmission takes place. With the recent advances of social science genetics we can now have a direct measure of one’s genetic predisposition for a certain trait. In particular, we want to exploit the fact that ALSPAC contains a) genetic information on the child’s mother and father; b) detailed information on educational achievement of the child and parents; c) detailed information of the parental and peer behavior towards the child; c) educational aspirations and social network data.

Jointly, we hope to answer the question to what extent intergenerational inequality is due to genetic transmission, and environmental transmission including the educational aspirations of parents, children and their peers.

Impact of research: 
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 27 February, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Wednesday, 13 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Social Science, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Learning difficulty, Educational development, inequalities, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Cognition - cognitive function, Development, Fathers, Genetics, Intelligence - memory, Offspring, Parenting, Psychology - personality, Puberty

B4522 - The role of cognition in the association between early-life air pollution exposure and subclinical psychotic experiences - 12/03/2024

B number: 
B4522
Principal applicant name: 
Joanne Newbury | Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Gemma Hammerton, Abdulrhman Alsheikh
Title of project: 
The role of cognition in the association between early-life air pollution exposure and subclinical psychotic experiences
Proposal summary: 

Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental health risks that the world faces, and is particularly problematic in cities. Growing evidence also suggests that air pollution may contribute to the development of mental health problems, including psychosis and psychotic experiences. However, little is known about the potential mechanisms that could link air pollution to mental health. One explanation includes disrupted neurocognitive development, which may be a consequence of air pollution, and subsequently increase risk for mental health problems.

Impact of research: 
My research will contribute to the evidence base on air pollution and mental health, which is essential for policymakers to make the economic case for tightening air pollution restrictions. Expected outputs include: - an academic paper - a conference presentation - career and skills development of an MSc student
Date proposal received: 
Friday, 8 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 12 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Mental health, Statistical methods, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution

B4558 - Childhood Obesity and Overweight GWAS for the EGG consortium - 23/04/2024

B number: 
B4558
Principal applicant name: 
Simon Haworth | University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Prof. Nicholas J. Timpson, Dr Kimberly Burrows, Mr. Laurie Fabian, Dr Marisa Canadas Garre
Title of project: 
Childhood Obesity and Overweight GWAS for the EGG consortium
Proposal summary: 

Obesity is a common health problem. Obesity can start early in life, and it is thought that genetic factors may be important in people who become obese at a young age. Little is known about these genetic factors in children compared to adults. An international effort co-ordinated by the Early Growth Genetics consortium (EGG) is currently underway which aims to test for genetic effects on different measures of overweight and obesity in childhood. This proposal plans to carry out analysis of different measures of overweight and obesity in children in the ALSPAC cohort, and plans to share summary results of this analysis with EGG.

Impact of research: 
Date proposal received: 
Monday, 4 March, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 12 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Genetic epidemiology (including association studies and mendelian randomisation), Obesity, GWAS, BMI, Genome wide association study

B4552 - Early regulatory problems and adverse health and social outcomes in adolescence - 11/03/2024

B number: 
B4552
Principal applicant name: 
Ayten Bilgin | University of Essex
Co-applicants: 
Title of project: 
Early regulatory problems and adverse health and social outcomes in adolescence
Proposal summary: 

Developing good self-regulation skills is one of the most important tasks for a child to accomplish. Earliest signs of difficulties in self-regulation include excessive crying, sleeping, or feeding difficulties, which are labelled as ‘regulatory problems’. Increasing evidence has shown that regulatory problems in infancy/toddlerhood increase the risk of several negative outcomes such as attention problems, emotional and behavioral dysregulation in childhood, and depressive symptoms in adolescence. However, it remains unknown if regulatory problems in infancy/toddlerhood are also associated with adverse health and social outcomes in adolescence.

The current study aims to investigate whether regulatory problems in infancy/toddlerhood increase the risk of following adverse a) health outcomes in adolescence: harmful drinking, smoking, cannabis use, illicit drug use, problem gambling, unwanted pregnancy, obesity, excessive screen time, and self-harm at 18 years, and b) social outcomes in adolescence: getting into trouble with police, not being in education, employment or training (NEET), low peer social support, low closeness in romantic relationships and relationship with parents.

Impact of research: 
The current study will expand our understanding of the long-term outcomes of early regulatory problems. Findings will have important clinical and societal implications and will result in a high-quality publication (e.g., JAMA Pediatrics, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry).
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 27 February, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 11 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Mental health, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Parenting, Sleep, Social science

B4557 - Investigating the relationships linking adverse childhood experiences to psychotic-like experiences - 11/03/2024

B number: 
B4557
Principal applicant name: 
James Kirkbride | UCL
Co-applicants: 
Ms Georgie Hudson
Title of project: 
Investigating the relationships linking adverse childhood experiences to psychotic-like experiences
Proposal summary: 

Psychosis is a severe mental health problem whereby sufferers lose some contact with reality. Two main symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations, where people hear or see something that others cannot, and delusions, where a person has strong beliefs that are not shared by others. People with a psychotic disorder are approximately 2-3 times as likely to have had adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) compared to those without this diagnosis. However, the exact mechanisms linking childhood trauma to psychosis and whether certain characteristics can reduce this risk are unknown. The prevalence of psychotic symptoms reduces from childhood into early adulthood, suggesting that most psychotic experiences in young people are short-term. However, less is known about what factors may predict the persistence of these symptoms. Much of the literature investigating the role of ACEs in the onset of psychosis has been based on study designs which only provide weak evidence about causation. For example, much of the literature relies on case-control studies which can only detect associations, rather than causal relationships between ACEs and psychosis, as a third, unaccounted variable may explain the association.

This project will examine:
(1) The trajectories of psychotic experiences from childhood into early adulthood and whether exposure to ACEs predicts the persistence of symptoms;
(2) whether social factors and cannabis use make the relationship between ACEs and psychosis stronger or weaker; and
(3) pathways linking ACEs to psychosis, namely cannabis use, self-esteem and PTSS (posttraumatic stress symptoms).

Impact of research: 
We expect to see that the number of young people with psychotic-like experiences declines from ages 12-24. We aim to gain some understanding of why this is, and which social exposures increase the risk of experiencing long-term psychotic symptoms. This may have useful clinical applications to mitigate against the development of psychotic disorders. The use of interaction terms will help improve our understanding of how social mechanisms impact the relationship between early life experiences and later development of psychotic experiences. The identification of modifiable risk factors means this research has the potential to improve the mental health of young people. In order to maximise the impact of my research, I plan to: (1) Publish at least three open-access publications in highly regarded, peer-reviewed journals with a broad readership. (2) Disseminate findings via oral and poster presentations at international psychiatry/epidemiology conferences with a wide audience, such as the Annual Congress of the Schizophrenia International Research Society, and The Congress of the Epidemiology and Social Psychiatry Section of the European Psychiatric Association. (3) Liaise with internal and external press and communications teams to maximise the impact of the findings. (4) Prepare blogs on my findings to ensure that they are available freely outside of academia on websites such as The Mental Elf Foundation.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 29 February, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 11 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Mental health, Computer simulations/modelling/algorithms, Statistical methods, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution, Genetics, Metabolic - metabolism, Social science, Statistical methods

B4554 - Investigating physical and mental health multimorbidity determinants throughout the lifespan - 13/03/2024

B number: 
B4554
Principal applicant name: 
Marianne van den Bree | Cardiff University (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Miss Lauren Benger
Title of project: 
Investigating physical and mental health multimorbidity determinants throughout the lifespan.
Proposal summary: 

Multimorbidity (MM) happens when two or more different diseases are present at the same time in an individual. This is common between physical and psychiatric diseases with almost half of people with a psychiatric disease also having a physical disease. As well as about a third of people with a physical disease also having a psychiatric disease. These patients have worse quality of life than those with a single disease, they often struggle to get the best care and are at risk of living less long. A common and serious type of MM is between internalizing diseases (depression and anxiety) and cardiovascular disease (ICV-MM). Still, very little is understood as to how ICV-MM develops and why it happens. We do know however that both internalizing disease and cardiovascular risk (e.g., obesity, cholesterol) tend to begin before adulthood.

To really understand how ICV risk develops, we need large studies of people of all ages whose health has been followed over time. Studies of children are crucial because they can tell us about early risks for development of ICV-MM later in life. This is important for developing better plans to prevent at-risk children developing ICV-MM. We also know that certain conditions that start early in life (neurodevelopmental conditions) such as intellectual disability, autism and ADHD increase risk of developing ICV MM later. Children's environments can also increase this risk, for example, stressful experiences such as poverty and physical or sexual abuse. But how exactly neurodevelopmental conditions and early environmental risks influence the development of ICV-MM over the lifespan is still not understood. Certain groups are known to be at increased risk of ICV-MM, such as people of South Asian heritage and women, but we don't know why this is. Better understanding of how ICV-MM develops in different groups in society will help doctors give patients care that is matched to their specific needs. It will also help doctors, governments and schools prevent ICV-MM in at-risk children in ways that work best for them.

To really understand the complexities of ICV-MM development, a team of researchers with a wide range of expertise is needed who together understand physical and psychiatric diseases as well as how neurodevelopmental conditions and the environments people live in influence them throughout their lives. The PhD student will benefit from working within our LIfespaN multimorbidity research Collaborative (LINC), which combines wide-ranging medical and research expertise in physical and psychiatric diseases. LINC has brought together five very large studies (of which the student will access two – ALSPAC and UK Biobank) in which the health of many people has been followed over time. Rich medical data is available, including from medical records. Important information has been collected such as on people's living environments, life events and lifestyles. These studies follow the health over time of children, adolescents and adults. We can therefore study how internalizing and cardiovascular disease happen together in adulthood. Importantly we can then also study early risk factors in the children before they develop these conditions. Because our child and adult samples differ in ethnicity and economic situation, we can also study how the development of ICV-MM differs for different groups in society. The student’s studies will further LINC’s efforts in understanding how ICV-MM develops and which circumstances influence this. What we learn will be important for the prevention of ICV-MM in children who are at risk because of their sex, or ethnic or economic reasons. The student will disseminate their research to Welsh government, patient and public involvement groups and charities to develop specific health advice in order to reduce ICV-MM in at risk groups in the future.

Impact of research: 
Potentially high, informing policy, clinical practice
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 27 February, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 11 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Mental health, Statistical methods, Cardiovascular

B4555 - Can arts engagement protect against common mental health issues in children and young people - 05/03/2024

B number: 
B4555
Principal applicant name: 
Naomi Warne | University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Dr Helen Bould, Dr Gemma Hammerton, Dr Jon Heron
Title of project: 
Can arts engagement protect against common mental health issues in children and young people?
Proposal summary: 

This project sets out to investigate whether involvement in the arts can play a role in preventing anxiety, depression, and eating disorders among young people. By analysing data from large community studies tracking the development of children over time, we aim to achieve four main objectives:
1) Current Relationship: We will look into the connection between participating in the arts and the mental health of young individuals at the present moment.

2) Future Impact: We aim to understand if there's a link between participating in the arts at one time and later mental health outcomes of young people. This will help us determine if arts involvement could potentially act as a preventive measure against mental health issues.
3) Variations Across Time and Countries: Through comparing data from different cohorts, we will explore whether the relationship between arts engagement and mental health outcomes varies over time and across different countries.
4) Arts engagement as a protective factor: We will explore whether arts engagement may protect against later mental illness in children experiencing socioeconomic adversity using mediation methods.
By undertaking this careful analysis, we hope to provide high-quality evidence regarding the potential benefits of arts engagement in promoting good mental wellbeing in young people. This research could inform interventions and policies aimed at promoting mental health through creative activities, potentially offering valuable insights into preventive strategies for anxiety, depression, and eating disorders among young individuals.

Impact of research: 
This project will build robust evidence around the role of arts engagement in young people’s mental health. While this is a rapidly developing research area, there is a dearth of research using good-quality epidemiological methods. By providing a careful examination using youth cohort studies, we can improve our understanding of whether engagement in the arts may play a causal role in protecting against mental health issues. This will help confirm and identify targets for vital new treatments and prevention measures, or highlight that investment in alternative causal mechanisms would be more fruitful.
Date proposal received: 
Wednesday, 28 February, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 5 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia, Mental health, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity

B4551 - Consortium of Refractive Error And Myopia research in Children - 21/05/2024

B number: 
B4551
Principal applicant name: 
Caroline Klaver | Erasmus MC (Nederland)
Co-applicants: 
dr. Willem Tideman, drs Sander Kneepkens, Dr. Jeremy Guggenheim
Title of project: 
Consortium of Refractive Error And Myopia research in Children
Proposal summary: 

Myopia (near-sightedness) is increasing in prevalence worldwide, most likely due to higher levels of education and changing lifestyles of young generations. The expectation is that half of the world’s citizens will be myopic by 2050. Myopia-related complications later in life are a serious threat to vision and will increase the rates of untreatable blindness. Prevention strategies and pharmacological and optical treatments to delay progression of myopia in childhood are emerging, but most eye care professionals still do not apply these interventions due to inadequate information and limited efficacy. To facilitate future myopia research, the Consortium of Refractive Error And Myopia research in Children (CREAM-Kids) is embarking on a collaboration to collect, harmonize and openly release individual-level data for 16 different cohorts of children from across the world. We aim to accurately predict myopia progression, identify lifestyle risk factors for myopia, and develop targeted prevention strategies.

Impact of research: 
With the data that results from this collaboration will also clinicians to accurately predict myopia progression, and guide future research into how and why lifestyle factors contribute to the increasing prevalence of myopia (so that targeted prevention strategies can be created).
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 27 February, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Tuesday, 5 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Ophthalmology, Myopia, nearsightedness, Statistical methods, Birth outcomes, BMI, Development, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution, Fathers, Genetic epidemiology, Genetics, Growth, Physical - activity, fitness, function, Statistical methods

B4549 - Investigating the associations between ADHD sleep disturbance and comorbid mental health outcomes across the lifespan Part 2 - 04/03/2024

B number: 
B4549
Principal applicant name: 
Hanna Isotalus | CDT Digital Health and Care (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Miss Grace Gorman
Title of project: 
Investigating the associations between ADHD, sleep disturbance, and comorbid mental health outcomes across the lifespan Part 2
Proposal summary: 

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common diagnosis. It affects around 3% of the population. ADHD has symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, or both. Although ADHD is usually seen in childhood, it is now accepted that for many, ADHD persists into adulthood. Adults with ADHD are more likely to also have symptoms of depression and anxiety. Without effective management, this can make life more difficult for someone with ADHD.

Both children and adults with ADHD also often report sleep problems. Getting good quality sleep is crucial to someone's health. Sleep problems are also a key aspect of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. In this proposal, we set out how we aim to investigate what role sleep disturbance plays in both ADHD and mental health.

This project will use existing measures collected from consenting ALSPAC participants. In particular, we will use measures of ADHD symptoms, sleep, anxiety, and depression. Through statistical analysis, we will explore whether ADHD influences someone's sleep quality. We will build on this by exploring whether a relationship between ADHD and sleep goes on to impact someone's mental health.

Our findings may have consequences for how we view the importance of sleep for someone with ADHD. Crucially, sleep is a modifiable behaviour. Our results may help promote clinical recommendations that consider sleep as a key component of ADHD management.

This proposal will use the dataset for B4541 only. No new data is required.

Impact of research: 
The findings will be published in peer-reviewed journals and conferences that adhere to ALSPAC open-access policy and disseminated through the Digital Health website. The findings of this project will contribute to a body of evidence on the relationship between ADHD, sleep, and mental health outcomes. In turn, this may promote further investigations in longitudinal studies that can assess this relationship with more granularity. Should an association be identified between ADHD, sleep, and mental health outcomes, this will be used to promote further attention being given to developing recommendations that consider sleep behaviour as an important modifiable component of ADHD experiences in adulthood. As this is also a student project, access to ALSPAC as a resource will provide an opportunity for the students to develop a robust statistical skillset that permits them to address important questions relevant to their theses.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 27 February, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 4 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Developmental disorders - autism, Mental health, Statistical methods, Cohort studies - attrition, bias, participant engagement, ethics, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Sleep, Statistical methods

B4543 - Associations of air pollution exposure with epigenetic age at birth and in childhood a meta-analysis LongITools - 04/03/2024

B number: 
B4543
Principal applicant name: 
Ana Goncalves Soares | University of Bristol (United Kingdom)
Co-applicants: 
Ms Irene F Marques, Dr Janine Felix
Title of project: 
Associations of air pollution exposure with epigenetic age at birth and in childhood – a meta-analysis (LongITools)
Proposal summary: 

Early-life exposure to ambient air pollution has been associated with adverse birth outcomes and poorer health across the life course. The mechanisms underlying these associations are still unclear, but differential DNA methylation might be involved. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM) exposure in pregnancy have been found to be associated with newborn DNA methylation. The objective of the present study is to examine the associations of air pollutant exposure during early life with epigenetic age acceleration at birth, in childhood and in adolescence in a multi-cohort setting.

Impact of research: 
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 20 February, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 4 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Epidemiology, Epigenetic age, DNA sequencing, Environment - enviromental exposure, pollution

B4546 - Social Inequality in child mental health difficulties Understanding epigenetic and family pathways - 04/03/2024

B number: 
B4546
Principal applicant name: 
Patrycja J. Piotrowska | University of Leicester (England)
Co-applicants: 
Mr Kester Bevin Bataringaya Tindi, Professor Frank Dudbridge
Title of project: 
Social Inequality in child mental health difficulties: Understanding epigenetic and family pathways
Proposal summary: 

Social inequality is the unequal distribution of socio-economic (SES) resources which affects people’s standards of living. Typically, individuals from lower SES backgrounds have a higher risk of poor physical and mental health, and children, have an increased likelihood of developing emotional and behavioural difficulties. Multiple factors such as family stress or genetics can influence this relationship between SES position and mental health difficulties. For example, low family income can contribute to difficulty in affording needs and parental distress, which in turn may lead to harsher parenting or family conflict which affect child development. Some of the exposures associated with low SES position can lead to heritable changes in gene expression without altering the DNA sequence which could then affect mental health outcomes. These changes are known as epigenetics, and DNA methylation (DNAm) is the most common epigenetic mechanism through which social inequality can affect gene expression. Low SES position has been previously associated with more alterations to DNAm profiles compared to higher SES positions. DNA methylation occurring in some gene regions have also been observed to associate with child mental health difficulties. Therefore, in this study we propose to investigate the relationship between SES position and child mental health difficulties, and whether this relationship can be explained by epigenetic changes and family functioning. We will make use of multiple methods, most notably structural equation modelling (SEM) for longitudinal analysis of participant data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

Impact of research: 
This work will contribute to the knowledge base of the causes or risk factors and direction of the relationship between social inequality, child mental health and their potential mediators. Identifying risk factors or the potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between social inequality and mental health difficulties is crucial to address and reduce the impact of risk factors on child development. The findings of this study can also impact the wider community by guiding policy and interventions that seek to counter the effects of identified risk factors and mechanisms, and that can improve child mental health outcomes.
Date proposal received: 
Friday, 23 February, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 4 March, 2024
Keywords: 
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Mental health, Statistical methods, Epigenetics

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