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The Life Project

This is a curious book. On the one hand, it looks and, in parts, reads like fiction, while on the other, its content leans towards the factual. This book examines British cohort studies, of which there have been many since the middle of the 20th century.

These cohorts, selected by UK babies’ birthdates, follows them throughout their lives, gathering data from health and lifestyle questionnaires, interviews and collecting various clinical samples. The cohort started in 1958 and tracked 17,415 subjects who, although there have been numerous publications about them, remain strangely anonymous.

This easy-to-read book gives a great factual overview of the studies, contains interviews with the scientists involved and uses fascinating human stories from the cohort participants.

The published outcomes have been varied over the years, although some elements received more media interest than others. The ‘born to fail’ ideas that suggested children born into an impoverished background were more likely to continue in poor health, wealth and career aspirations, created a stir when first revealed.

The fact that cohorts continue today to use current technological methods and challenge thinking is a testament to their inspirational value.

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