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Harnessing the power of cohort studies for dementia research

Elizabeth Breeze (Alzheimer’s Society UK, London, UK)
Nicola Jean Hart (Alzheimer's Society UK, London, UK)
Dag Aarsland (Centre for Alzheimer Research, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden)
Catherine Moody (UK Medical Research Council on behalf of JPND, London, UK)
Carol Brayne (Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 16 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to scope potential and gaps in European cohort studies with focus on brain ageing and neurodegeneration.


Combined and augmented two scoping exercises conducted for European Union Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Diseases (JPND) and the Alzheimer Society UK.


In total, 106 cohorts initially identified with a further 52 found on second sweep. Strengths include gender balance, diversity of measures and much detail on health and health behaviours, and lifecourse representation. Major gaps identified were the oldest old, non-Caucasians, people in Eastern Europe, migrant populations, rural residents and people in long-term care. Quality of life, psychosocial and environmental factors were limited. Relatively few cohorts are population representative. Analytical methods for combining studies and longitudinal analysis require careful consideration.

Research limitations/implications

European studies and published information only.

Practical implications

Collaboration across disciplines and studies, greater dissemination of methods and findings will improve knowledge about cognitive and functional decline in current and future older populations.

Social implications

Better understanding of brain ageing and the dementia syndrome will improve investment decisions for primary, secondary and tertiary prevention.


Building on the work of JPND and the Alzheimer Society is the first study of the scope and limitations of current cohorts in Europe. It is designed to help researchers and policy makers in their planning.



Declaration of interest: Dr Elizabeth Breeze has worked on the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and have become familiar with some cohorts while working on health and ageing and this may be reflected in the information the authors have picked out for this report.

The authors are grateful to the JPND Action Group on Longitudinal Studies and James Pickett of the Alzheimer’s Society for allowing use of their cohort listings and to Derick Mitchell for his comments on a draft. Also to all those who directly or indirectly contributed information to the information used here, including Javier Almazan, Enrique Alcalde, David Burn, Enrica Cavedio, Teddy Cosco, Joanne Feeney and Giovanni Frisoni.


Breeze, E., Hart, N.J., Aarsland, D., Moody, C. and Brayne, C. (2015), "Harnessing the power of cohort studies for dementia research", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 8-17.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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