The HEAF Study

Lead Investigator: Karen Walker-Bone
Co-Investigators: David Coggon, Maria Evandrou, Catharine Gale, Clare Harris, Cathy Linaker, Avan Aihie Sayer, Tjeerd van Staa, Jussi Vahtera, Keith Palmer (retired).
Funders: Versus Arthritis (formerly Arthritis Research UK), MRC, ESRC                                                                       Click on logo for HEAF website

Background: By 2050, 30% of the European population will be aged > 65 years. There is a growing financial imperative to keep people in work to older ages. Work at older ages may confer psychological and physical benefits. However, older people may struggle with the demands of work and their greater prevalence of comorbidities and use of medication may increase their risk of occupational injury.

Main study questions: (1) What is the impact of common health problems (especially musculoskeletal disorders) on work capability and work participation at older ages?
(2) What are the social, occupational, personal and medical co-factors which influence vocational outcomes among older people?
(3) What is the impact of job loss (age-related or health-related) on subsequent physical and psychological health in people aged > 50 years?

Study design: This is a cohort study of 8,000 adults aged 50-64 years who were recruited from GP practices across England that are part of the Clinical Practice Research Database (CPRD). At baseline, people agreed to complete questionnaires (about their work and health, and determinants of these) annually for 3 years and gave permission for their responses to be linked to their (anonymised) records in CPRD so that we have relatively low-cost access to information about diagnoses, consultations in primary and secondary care and medications prescribed. Participants have since renewed their consent to receive questionnaires annually for a further three years and data collection is on-going.  There is a lot more information about the study and it’s findings on the dedicated HEAF study website – click here.

Data access: The data holders welcome bone fide research proposals for data sharing. In the first instance inquiries should be directed to Professor Karen Walker-Bone, Director of the Arthritis Research UK/MRC Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work at kwb@mrc.soton.ac.uk

Outputs:
Keith T Palmer KT, Walker-Bone K, Harris EC, Linaker C, D’Angelo S, Aihie Sayer A, Gale CR, Evandrou M, van Staa T, Cooper C, Coggon D. Health and Employment after Fifty (HEAF): a new prospective cohort study. BMC Public Health 2015;15:1071

D’Angelo S, Walker-Bone K, Harris EC, Linaker C, Aihie Sayer A, Gale C, Evandrou M, van Staa T, Cooper C, Coggon D, Palmer KT. Job dissatisfaction and the older worker: baseline findings from the Health and Employment After Fifty study. Occup Environ Med 2016;73:512-519

Palmer KT, D’Angelo S, Harris EC, Linaker C, Aihie Sayer A, Gale C, Evandrou M, van Staa T, Cooper C, Coggon D, Walker-Bone K. Sleep disturbance and the older worker: findings from the Health and Employment After Fifty study. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health 2017;43:136-145

Palmer KT, D’Angelo S, Harris EC, Linaker C, Gale C, Evandrou M, van Staa T, Cooper C, Aihie Sayer A, Coggon D, Syddall HE, Walker-Bone K. Frailty, pre-frailty and employment outcomes in the Health and Employment after Fifty (HEAF) study. Occup Environ Med 2017;74:476-482