Dr. Christina Wolfson, co-principal Investigator of the Veterans Health Initiative.

By Meaghan Thurston, McGill Reporter

In 2015, The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced $41 million to the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). The CLSA, the largest study of its kind ever undertaken in Canada, is led jointly by Dr. Parminder Raina (McMaster University) Dr. Susan Kirkland (Dalhousie University) and Dr. Christina Wolfson (RI-MUHC researcher and professor in McGill’s Departments of Medicine and of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health).

Earlier this week, the CIHR announced another $1.7 million in funding for 25 CLSA research projects, including a $70,000 Catalyst Grant for the project, The Veterans Health Initiative within the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging: A Snapshot of the Physical and Mental Health of Older Veterans. The Veterans Health Initiative is based on 4500 CLSA participants who self-identified as Veterans through their responses to a set of four questions within the baseline assessment of the CLSA.

These questions asked about not only past military service but also the branch of the military in which they served, when the military service took place, and the length of time spent in the military. Participants also provided detailed information on their physical and mental health.  Led by Dr. Wolfson with co-investigators, Profs. Alice Aiken (Dalhousie), Anthony Feinstein (University of Toronto) and Dr. Linda Van Til (Veterans Affairs Canada), and launched in 2014, this project is the first step in the Veterans’ Health Initiative within the CLSA, which will continue to follow the physical and mental health of Veterans over the next 20 years.

“I am grateful to the CIHR for their ongoing support of the CLSA and also the support of this  unique project, which will provide an important resource for Canadian Veterans, including for those Veterans of conflicts pre-dating the Gulf War, a cohort about which little is known,” said Dr. Wolfson. “One of the results of this research will be the creation of novel information about how the aging process of Veterans is different from those who did not serve in the military and whether any differences are related to era of service, branch of service or duration of service.”

The CLSA is following 51,000 men and women who were between the ages of 45 and 85 at recruitment, for 20 years. Across the country, eleven data collections sites, four computer assisted interview sites, and a Biorepository and Bioanalysis Centre form the CLSA infrastructure. The RI-MUHC is the home of one of the data collection sites and the National Statistical Analysis Centre, where Dr. Wolfson’s team examines the quality and reliability of the data and prepares them for release to researchers. Through its large size, comprehensive data collection and long-term design, the CLSA will enable research on the factors associated with healthy aging.

June 1, 2017