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National study to collect data on aging adults’ experiences during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: 22 April 2020

How does a pandemic affect the physical and psychological health of adults as they age? Does COVID-19 have an impact on the delivery of regular health-care services? Does a COVID-19 infection lead to long-term health problems affecting the lungs or brain?

These are just a few of the questions a new study being launched this week hopes to answer. The collaborative research project, conducted in partnership with more than 10 institutions across the country, including McGill University, will examine the experiences of older adults during the coronavirus pandemic, exploring how they cope, the impacts on their physical and mental health, and changes to how they access health-care services.

Collecting health data over next six months

“When we learn more about COVID-19 through the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), about the way it spreads, whether there is post-infection immunity, why some are more vulnerable than others… it will be because we, to paraphrase Isaac Newton, have stood on the shoulders of our participants who are responding and eager to help us all to see further,” said co-principal investigator Christina Wolfson, a professor in McGill’s Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health and Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, who is also a Senior Scientist with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

Over the next six months, the CLSA COVID-19 study will collect weekly and monthly data from its participants through online and telephone surveys to gain a comprehensive picture of the spread and impact of the pandemic. In addition to data on health and well-being, the study will also gather information on health behaviours, including social distancing and handwashing, workplace and economic impacts, as well as travel history.

“By using the rich data from the CLSA to study COVID-19, we can assess which factors appear to protect against or increase the risk of developing symptoms,” said principal investigator Parminder Raina, a professor in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster and scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging. “This offers a unique opportunity to understand why some individuals develop severe disease while others remain asymptomatic despite being infected by the virus.”

The CLSA, is a national research platform on health and aging involving more than 50,000 participants across 10 provinces. Led by principal investigator Parminder Raina of McMaster University, and co-principal investigators Christina Wolfson of the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health and Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, and Susan Kirkland of Dalhousie University, along with a national team of researchers.

Funding for the CLSA COVID-19 study has been provided by the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA), McMaster University and Juravinski Research Institute through a new gift earlier this month for research on the pandemic from Hamilton philanthropists Charles and Margaret Juravinski. Additional support has been provided by several provinces, affiliated universities and research institutions across Canada.
The CLSA is a major strategic initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Funding for the platform has been provided by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

For more information on the CLSA COVID-19 study, visit:

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,800 international students making up 31% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 19% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

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