Lifelines welcomes 50,000th participant for Third Assessment


- by Jari Bosma

Northern health data collection continues to grow

On Thursday 7 July, Lifelines in Leeuwarden welcomes the 50,000th participant  for the Third Assessment of the long-term health study. Since 2006, participants have visited Lifelines every five years for an extensive measurement. Through this repetition of measurements Lifelines has grown to become one of the largest biobanks in the world. The health data is used by policy makers and researchers to develop policies and better therapies for the prevention and treatment of diseases. In addition, the measurements provide participants with insight into their health.

Onwards to 100,000

Lifelines started with 167,000 volunteers from the northern Netherlands as a project of the UMCG. Over the years, a number of people moved, stopped or passed away. As a result, 120,000 participants were examined in the Second Assessment (2014 -2017). Bert-Jan Souman, general director of Lifelines: "We are aiming to receive 100,000 people in this Third Assessment. The more people who participate, the greater the value of Lifelines will be. Everyone who has visited Lifelines in the last 15 years is once again very welcome".

Northerners as a time machine

The Lifelines participants are like a time machine that allows researchers to go back in time to look for answers to current questions. Even now, differences can be seen in the measurements from the First and Third Assessments. For example, more than 65% of adult participants have gained weight in the past 15 years. At the same time, leisure walking has increased in popularity. During the Third Assessment, for example, participants indicated that they walked an average of 3.3 days per week. During the Second Assessment this was 2.5 days per week.

Minister Kuipers: "Exceptionally important research "

The importance of Lifelines is also recognised in The Hague. Minister Ernst Kuipers recently spoke in the UMCG about an "exceptionally important study, both nationally and internationally". He also thanked all participants for their fantastic contribution to Lifelines. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), for example, uses Lifelines data to discover whether policy measures are working properly. For instance, the nearly 1 million corona questionnaires that participants completed since the start of the pandemic are used to see what impact corona has on our society. This gives the RIVM and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport insight into the spread of the virus within families and the effects of the measures, for example.