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The University of Southampton

Epidemiology Research theme

The University has a strong tradition of epidemiological research, much of it conducted within the MRC epidemiology unit.

Epidemiology Research Theme

The key aims of this research theme are:

a) delineating the environmental causes throughout the lifecourse of chronic musculoskeletal disorders; diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease, and thereby developing population-based and high risk preventive strategies against these disorders

(b) maintaining and developing long-term cohort studies assembled in Southampton as national and international resources to explore the developmental origins of health and disease (the Hertfordshire Cohort Study, the Southampton Women’s Survey, the Southampton Initiative for Health, and the MAVIDOS trial

c) informing health policy and practice through the provision of authoritative evidence and knowledge synthesis

d) promoting training, research capacity development, knowledge transfer and public engagement in the lifecourse epidemiology of chronic disease.

Patterns of health, illness and disease are influenced at different stages of the lifecourse by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Our previous research has demonstrated that during early development, the way in which the fetus responds to a range of nutritional and other factors is likely to be an important contributor to disease, as described by the ‘developmental origins' hypothesis. Environmental exposures during infancy, childhood and adult life may modify this susceptibility to disease. In middle and later life, social, psychological, physical and occupational factors in the environment can cause, or accentuate risk of, ill health and disease. Research at the LEU encompasses health determinants throughout the entire lifecourse, from the prenatal phase, through infancy, childhood and working life, on into old age.

Key achievements

Key scientific achievements include documentation that:

  • Maternal vitamin D insufficiency during pregnancy is associated with reduced bone mass in offspring;
  • Poor growth in utero is associated with sarcopenia in later life
  • Maternal micronutrient status is linked to body composition, insulin resistance and bone health in offspring;
  • Women’s perception of control over their lives is modifiable through a complex intervention entailing healthy conversation skills
  • In analyses exploring the cultural determinants of pain, striking differences are observed in rates of musculoskeletal symptoms and associated disability and sickness absence between workers doing similar jobs in different countries.
Link to Human Development and Physiology Research Group
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