An extensive cohort study to examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and well-being of middle-aged people

Researchers from the University of Oulu have started to examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the members of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort born in 1966. The subjects are now 55 years old.

The aim of the study is to examine, for example, how the pandemic has affected the mental health of individuals or changed their health behaviour or social relationships.

“People react differently to health threats, social isolation and negative news. This can increase psychosocial stress in some people. We want to know more about, for example, what factors influence the development and expression of psychosocial stress,” says Professor Sylvain Sebert.

The Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 is a lifetime follow-up study that covers more than 12,000 people born in Northern Finland in 1966. Data on the cohort members have been collected at regular intervals since pregnancy.

The study just launched includes an online survey and cognitive performance tests. The survey collects information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the subjects’ everyday life, health behaviour, social relationships, economy and working life as well as their mental health and quality of life. The cognitive tests are used to measure memory and learning.

“The members of the cohort have been followed through life, and there is already a wealth of research data and samples of the subjects. All of this provides a great starting point for investigating the impact of the pandemic on the development of health and well-being from a life-cycle perspective,” says doctoral student Helmi Ikonen.

Current research evidence suggests that obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases increase the risk of COVID-19 infection and serious symptoms. The study may also provide more information on why some people become more seriously ill than others.

More than 2,400 members of the cohort have already responded to the survey on the impact of the pandemic and completed some cognitive performance tests. All in all, the data collection will last until the summer. The researchers expect the first results by the end of the year.

Last updated: 12.2.2021