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Lifestyle Factors and Dementia in England and China

This project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, aims to compare factors related to dementia and cognitive impairment in collaboration with colleagues from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS).

We will explore associations between cognitive function and socioeconomic factors or economic decisions in the two countries by emphasising sleep disturbance and physical activity. 


This project aims to implement and investigate objective measures of sleep and physical activity using activity monitors in two large representative populations samples: the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and Chinese Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS).


As sister studies, ELSA and CHARLS share a similar design in terms of measuring cognitive function and lifestyle factors, making cross-national comparisons possible, timely and relevant.


This project aims to answer the following research questions:


  1.  What differences exist between lifestyle behaviours and other health determinants of cognitive impairment and dementia in England and China? We will use the longitudinal data in ELSA and CHARLS (including the HCAP samples) to evaluate the relevance of self-reported sleep and physical activity, history of cardiometabolic disease and multimorbidity, as well as socio-economic inequalities, education, family structure, social environments in relation to these specific cognitive outcomes.

  2.  Do the relationships between lifestyle and cognitive function outcomes differ by economic activity and economic resources in England and China?

  3.  What differences are there between objectively-assessed sleep and physical activity in relation to cognitive function, cognitive impairment and dementia in the two countries? Are these associations different from those based on self-report measures? These questions will be tested cross-sectionally initially (during the duration of the grant). However, the new data will provide a baseline for future longitudinal studies of cognitive decline and dementia.


Study team

Principal Investigator: Professor Andrew Steptoe

Collaborator: Aiden Doherty (University of Oxford)

Researchers: Dr Laura Brocklebank and Mikaela Bloomberg (University College London)

Contact: Dr Laura Brocklebank


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