Study of midlife health enhanced with new 1970 British Cohort Study accelerometry data

News, Data release
27 March 2020

New activity monitor data from the Age 46 Biomedical Sweep of the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) are now available for researchers to download from the UK Data Service.

These new data, produced by the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, provide details about study participants’ levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviour – including time spent sitting, standing, moving and sleeping  over a seven day period.

The inclusion of accelerometry in BCS70, for the first time, will open up opportunities for researchers to study the links between midlife physical activity and health with more accuracy and in greater detail than ever before.

How were the data collected?

Study participants were asked to wear the thigh-worn activity monitors continuously for 7 days including when bathing and swimming and for all physical activities. This aspect of the BCS70 Age 46 Biomedical Sweep was funded by the British Heart Foundation.

How many participants wore the accelerometers?

Of the 8,500 cohort members who took part in the BCS70 Age 46 Biomedical Sweep, almost 6,500 consented to wearing the activity monitor, with more than 5,500 returning their monitors with useable data for at least one day of wear. More than 3,600 wore a monitor for the full week.

A valuable new resource for studying physical activity, health and ageing

In addition to the physical activity data, the Age 46 Biomedical Sweep also included a wide range of objective health assessments for the first time since study participants were children. The sweep also collected data about many other aspects of the cohort members’ lives as they reached middle age, from family and housing, to employment, income, mental health and cognitive function.

When discussing the value of the accelerometry data, Professor Alice Sullivan, BCS70 Director, said: “As the British population gets older, there is a growing recognition of the importance of physical activity for the promotion of healthy ageing.

“In the past, it has been difficult to capture accurate measurements of physical activity, as the study relied on self-reported data from cohort members. Now, with physical activity recorded objectively through accelerometer technology, researchers can capture a wide range of movements, intensity of activities, as well as reliable measures of sedentary behaviour.

“Combined with the rich array of information provided in the same sweep, cohort members’ data will help to shed light on the links between midlife physical activity, metabolic health, mental health and physical functioning, to enable researchers, health practitioners and policymakers learn more about healthy ageing.”

Download the data

The data are available under End User Licence from the UK Data Service. To download the data (SN:8611) and accompanying documentation, visit the UK Data Service webpage for the Age 46 Sweep Accelerometry data.

Read the user guide

1970 British Cohort Study:  Age 46 Survey Accelerometry User Guide

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