AN American billionaire is funding an unprecedented survey on Irish life that will take 10 years to complete, incorporate thousands of people and cost €29m.
The study on ageing in
Ireland aims to follow 10 years
in the life of some 8,000 people
in their 50s, resulting in a comprehensive understanding
of the relationship between health and lifestyle.
Although similar projects have already been undertaken in the US and the UK, it is a first for Ireland and it is hoped the results will help shape future health policy.
The project has received generous financial support from the Irish-American billionaire Chuck Feeney's Atlantic Philanthropies and Irish Life, while further funding negotiations are ongoing with officials from the Department of Health.
Some 1,200 households have been contacted at random in recent weeks with requests to take part.
"We will be starting in September with a sample of at least 8,000 people aged 50 and over and following them in two-year intervals," Prof Brendan Whelan told the Sunday Tribune.
"The object of the exercise is to provide much better data on the scientific and social domains of the ageing process and how they relate to each other.
"We carried out a pilot study which was confined to Dublin last July with about 140 cases. It was a preliminary exercise, and on the basis of that, we have redesigned our study and we now have a pilot survey which will be as close as possible to the main survey when we do it."
Participants will not only be examined in terms of their lifestyles, economic backgrounds and social participation, but will also be asked to attend a special medical centre at Trinity College Dublin where they will undergo various health tests.
The next sample study will involve about 400 people on a nationwide basis where any further teething problems with the process can be identified and weeded out.
Although participants, who will be visited four times over eight years, will receive costs and a small financial incentive, the study is too broad to offer full payment and it is hoped those contacted will participate in the interest of research.
The study is being undertaken by Trinity, UCD, UCC, the Royal College of Surgeons, NUI Galway, the Dundalk Institute of Technology and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).