HEAF Updates December 2023

We hope that you are keeping well, and life has gone back to usual after such a difficult few years. Since the last time we were in touch, we have been working on data that you have very kindly provided, and we are excited to share with you some of the key findings of our research.

HEAF Study Leadership

HEAF is one of many cohorts curated by the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre (MRC LEC) at the University of Southampton, under the oversight of its Director. We are delighted to welcome Professor Nicholas Harvey as the new Director of the MRC LEC, taking over from Professor Cyrus Cooper, who led the MRC investment in Southampton since 2010. Professor Karen Walker-Bone remains HEAF Study PI as a Visiting Professor at the University of Southampton and from her new position as Professor of Occupational Rheumatology and Director of the Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at Monash University in Australia.

HEAF Update September 2021

We hope all our participants and colleagues have been safe and well during the pandemic.
At the HEAF study we have been working remotely, so we have not been able to post out as many updates or questionnaires as we would have liked. However, we have certainly been busy throughout the period!

  • Whilst we were working remotely, some of you were contacted via e-mail for an online questionnaire which focused on the impact of Covid on older adults. We intend to follow this up shortly with another online questionnaire so please do keep an eye out for another email from us.
  • We have recently published some new findings about loneliness in older adults from the HEAF study. You can find more information about this and all other publications from the HEAF study by clicking on the Findings tab .
  • We will also soon be publishing findings on the impact of shift/night work in the HEAF cohort and this will also be included in our Findings page
  • We will also be presenting HEAF data and posters at the upcoming Epidemiology in Occupational Health (EPICOH) conference which will take place virtually between 25-28th October.

We’d like to offer our thanks to all our participants for your continued support with this important research. We will be back in touch with updates and questionnaires as soon as we are able!

New HEAF Online Questionnaire Starting Soon – Check Your E-mails

We will shortly be sending out an invitation to participate in a new online HEAF questionnaire. The invitations will come via e-mail if you have provided us with one, or by post if you have not. So please check your e-mails including junk folders.

During the pandemic restrictions we’ve been busy writing scientific papers from the data you have kindly provided up to now. (see findings section). Now we’d like your assistance once again in completing an online questionnaire about your experiences of the Covid pandemic and lockdown. We’ve taken the decision to send an online questionnaire due to problems with sending and processing bulk post whilst not having full access to our office facilities. We realise that not everyone will have access to the internet and/or may not want to complete an online questionnaire. Rest assured that HEAF will return to the normal postal format as soon as we are able to do so and you will remain an important part of our study whether you fill out the online questionnaire or not.

We are also pleased to announce that the new questionnaire will form part of a new PhD project for one of our statistician staff members, Stefania D’Angelo. Stefania has been involved in the statistical analysis of HEAF for many years and we are pleased that this exciting new project will allow us even greater scope to work with participants on such an important topic.

HEAF Newsletter 2020

It’s been a challenging year in so many ways and we hope all HEAF participants have coped despite the restrictions on our day to day lives. We have been busy analysing the data you have already provided and preparing the next phase of the HEAF study. All this and more is detailed in our new 2020 newsletter.

The newsletter is now on its way to all HEAF participants. We’ve also uploaded the newsletter to our online archive.  Electronic versions are available here.

HEAF study is now part of the CLOSER consortium

We’re excited to announce that the HEAF study is now part of the CLOSER consortium. This partnership brings together data from 19 different studies in a UK-wide collaboration. The connected data will allow enhanced insights into a wide range of topics including obesity, physical activity and mental health. The collaboration also brings together an interdisciplinary community of scientists to explore new opportunities presented by the harmonised datasets.


“CLOSER is a very important consortium to be included in. We are very pleased that HEAF has been invited to join this partnership. We would particularly like to thank our amazing participants who continue to respond with enthusiasm and such rich information about every aspect of their lives. I would also like to thank the HEAF team (Dr Cathy Linaker, Dr Clare Harris, Martin Stevens, Gregorio Bevilacqua, Stefania D’Angelo, Georgia Ntani, Holly Syddall, Sue Curtis, and Vanessa Cox) who work tirelessly to clean, enter and analyse the data and Professor Keith Palmer who incepted this amazing study in 2012-13.”

Professor Karen Walker-Bone, Principal investigator, HEAF Study

We’re extremely proud of the HEAF study and the insights that the study has provided. We would like to thank all our participants for their continued dedication to the study and are excited that we can enhance our understanding of working at older ages and broader topics through open collaboration in the CLOSER consortium.

For further details on the CLOSER consortium please click here


HEAF FIRST Questionnaires Launched

We are excited to announce that the Health and Employment After Fifty: Factors Influencing Retirement Study (HEAF FIRST) questionnaires are ready to be posted out.

This is a sub-study of HEAF designed to find out the work-related factors that may influence people’s decision to retire or to continue working into older ages. There’s two questionnaires this time: one specifically for retirees and one specifically for workers. We’ll shortly be sending the questionnaires out to a proportion of HEAF participants to ask for their help with this important sub-study.

HEAF Researchers at PREMUS conference

Five of the HEAF research team have just returned to the UK after attending the major international PREMUS (Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders) conference that was held in Bologna, Italy.

Delegates attended from far and wide: Europe, Australia, North and South America, India and the Far East and included both research scientists and health professionals. The conference is held every 3 years and provides a great opportunity for us to meet other international research groups and discuss our findings from the HEAF study, particularly with regard to musculoskeletal pain and older workers.

This year, our lead scientist, Karen Walker-Bone was invited to deliver a keynote speech about the challenges of frailty and working to older ages and included our HEAF results. Other team members gave further presentations using HEAF study data throughout the conference. These included the effect of weight and musculoskeletal pain on a person’s ability to work to older ages and also the impact of caring responsibilities and a person’s health. We are delighted to report that there was considerable interest shown in the HEAF study by our international colleagues. Once again, it is only thanks to you, the participants that we are able to carry out this vital research and present our findings. Thank you!

HEAF 2019 Newsletter now available

Keep up to date with the latest news from the HEAF study team.  It’s been an exciting year for the HEAF study.  Although we didn’t send a questionnaire last year we’ve been busy analysing the data our participants have provided and presenting that data at talks throughout the country.  We also have some wonderful news from the palace……….

Get up to date with all the recent HEAF news at the following link:

HEAF Newsletter 2019.

HEAF Follow-up 5 Mail Out

HEAF follow-up 5 is now ready for mail-out!  The latest questionnaire will provide more data for our ongoing study enabling us to get an even better understanding of work and life outside of work after 50.  We value our participants help whether they are at work or not.

As well as the questionnaire there will also be a new consent form so that we can continue to contact our participants in the future.

We’ve been very busy sending these out during June so hope all our participants will be receiving their questionnaire very soon. As you can see it’s pink this year so hopefully it’ll be hard to miss.

We once again thank all our participants for any updates they can give us. If you are in the HEAF cohort and do not receive your new questionnaire in the next few weeks then please do not hesitate to contact us.

HEAF FIRST Sub-study launched

Today we are pleased to officially commence the HEAF FIRST (Factors influencing Retirement) Study

This study aims to find out the work-related factors that influence people’s decision to retire or to continue working into older ages with the HEAF cohort. We also aim to look at what employers can do to ensure that people are able to work beyond normal retirement age if they want to. We aim to publish findings in the research press and also hope to influence business and government policy in this area. The research will also form part of Martin Stevens’s PhD study into retirement decisions.

At this stage we will be contacting a small number of retired participants to conduct telephone interviews and discuss reasons for retirement. We’re excited to communicate with members of the HEAF cohort via telephone for the first time and believe this will enrich the comprehensive data gathered already by questionnaire. This will eventually lead onto the development of a retirement specific questionnaire.