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30 million NOK awarded for project on Alzheimer's disease and dementia
The NIPH team was more than just happy - these funds open up opportunities we have dreamed of for many years to expand our activity on reserach on aging and health. With the impending major demographic changes, research on aging and aging-related diseases is more important than ever, and we are very pleased with this award, says Strand and Skirbekk.
Family and occupational patterns have changed fundamentally in recent decades, with more childlessness, partnership dissolution, rising cohabitation and new family forms. There has also been a shift in the work content towards more cognitively demanding work tasks, and less physical and repetitive work. The project will study how these phenomena affect the risk of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.
About the project
The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) is projected to triple by 2050. Currently, there is no known effective medical treatment for ADRD. Prevention through behavioral changes affecting ADRD risk is therefore of utmost importance. Rapid changes that characterize modern family life and work are two critical domains that likely impact ADRD risk.
However, these effects remain relatively understudied due to the scarcity of data suited to such investigation. A shift to “modern” family structures and work tasks have occurred relatively early in Norway, and unique data availability allows these changes to be studied prospectively to predict coming changes in ADRD in the US and other countries.
- We will study life-course effects of and interactions between family and work in adulthood for risk of ADRD and cognitive impairment in older adults, explains Strand and Skirbekk.
This will be done by exploiting the exceptional Norwegian HUNT (Nord-Trondelag Health Study) dataset, a large ongoing prospective population level study that includes cohorts born 1900 – 1960 (including more than 11700 participants aged 70+ years), combined with Norwegian national registry data.
Changing family and work dynamics
Family patterns have fundamentally changed in Western countries in the second half of the 20th century, with more childlessness, partnership disruptions, cohabitation and “patchwork”-families (following (re-) partnering with own children and step-children). Data available previously could not assess the consequences of new family patterns on ADRD and cognition.
Family formation influences and is influenced by economic and social resources and may, in turn, affect ADRD. Important employment parameters have also changed, with e.g., greater levels of economic activity for women and a shift in the content of work towards more cognitively demanding job tasks, and less physical and repetitive work.
However, job opportunities among low skilled populations have worsened over the 20th century. This polarization may have important effects, including reducing cognition for the least stable, physically demanding, and cognitively understimulating jobs, while improving cognition among those with more stimulating work. This project will study the joint effect of changing family and work dynamics on risk of ADRD.