The first report from a large-scale multi-year study on aging in Canada is out. While the news is generally good, there are areas we should be watching closely
By Katrina Caruso
The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) last week released its first report, based on what it learned during the five-year baseline-data gathering stage of a study that will follow 50,000 Canadians for 20 years.
The CLSA is Canada’s largest and most comprehensive study on aging. Between 2010 and 2015, researchers recruited participants aged 45 to 85 and gathered information from them—20,000 participants were interviewed by the phone, and 30,000 were interviewed at home or at one of many CLSA data-collection sites across Canada. The latter group also underwent physical exams that recorded an array of measurments such as height, weight, pulse rate, blood pressure, bone density, gait speed, and grip strength. Researchers also collected information on everything from diet and lifestyle to education and income. Follow-ups will occur every three years until the end of the study (unless a participant passes away before then). Researchers hope to continue to gain valuable insights into the physical, mental, and social aspects of aging.
The CLSA’s first report offers information on topics related to aging and wellness, including loneliness and isolation, physical and psychological health, mobility, retirement, and disabilities. According the study’s data, 90% of participants rated their health as good, very good, or excellent, and 95% describe their mental health as good to excellent.
One area that might be of concern is how many Canadians are caregivers: almost half (44%) of CLSA participants say that they provide care for someone else, and the number jumps to 49% among those 55 to 64.
Loneliness and social isolation are known serious health risks, and 30.83% of women aged 75-plus reported being lonely “at least some of the time.” Rates of loneliness among women rose as they got older, while rates among men were consistently lower than among women and didn’t rise with age. The study also showed a connection between loneliness and depression.
The study brings together more than 160 researchers from Canadian university, across disciplines including biology, economics, and psychology. Funding came from a contribution of $65.1 million from the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) and another $10 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
The data collected between 2010 and 2033 will be kept and studied for 25 after the end of the study. The CLSA will strike an ethics board to decide on what to do with the data beyond that 25-year period.
The study’s complete report can be accessed here: www.clsa-elcv.ca/CLSAReport.