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  • Acting Principal Investigator

    Professor Frank Kee

    Name of the Study

    NICOLA: The Northern Ireland Cohort for the Longitudinal Study of Ageing

    Why is this Study important?

    It is predicted that 1 in 4 children born today will celebrate their 100th birthday.  While this trend is good news, by 2048 almost half of the population will be aged over 50 years, thus posing many challenges for our society and policy makers.

    What is the Research Aim?

    Through NICOLA, we aim to understand the health needs and status of older people, the contributions that older people are making to society, the biological and/or environmental components that assist in successful ageing and the economic needs and status of older people.

    What the Study Involves

    The study has recruited 8,500 people from across Northern Ireland to provide a true representation of its population.  Our objective is to monitor these individuals and examine how their health, lifestyle, financial circumstances and overall wellbeing changes over a 10 year cycle to enable answers to the following questions: 

    How can we best maintain and maximise independence and the health and wellbeing of older people?

    How do we organise and fund the delivery of care services for older people and make adequate pension provision?

    What are the consequences for the labour market and employment with an increasing population of people reaching the conventional retirement age?

    PPI Involvement

    PPI representatives sit on the Stakeholder Council which has the purpose of maximising opportunities for the NICOLA Study, to make it more strategic and help it grow and flourish. 

    Who can take part in the Study?

    Participants were selected as follows:

    Over 400,000 addresses were initially identified as having a household member aged 50 years or above. From these addresses, a smaller random sample, based on over 14,000 addresses, was selected to provide an overall representation of the Northern Ireland population.  

    Selected addresses were visited by an interviewer from Ipsos MORI (a market research company in Northern Ireland who were contracted by QUB to carry out the home interviews). All persons aged 50 years or over (and their spouses/partners of any age) were canvassed to participate in the survey. 

    A nationally representative sample of over 8,500 adults, aged 50 years and over and resident in Northern Ireland were selected using this population sift.

    What data has been collected to date?

    Data collection for Wave 1 included a combination of a Computer aided personal interview (CAPI), self-completion questionnaire (SCQ), a health assessment and dietary assessment. A total of 8,452 CAPI interviews were conducted between December 2013 and March 2016, representing a response rate of 63%. Fifty-nine percent (n = 5021) of participants returned a valid SCQ while 44% (n = 3743) completed the health assessment.


    Data collection for Wave 2 took place between May 2017 and November 2019 and consisted of a CAPI only. The NICOLA sample was refreshed for Wave 2 in order to maintain the representation of individuals aged 50–54 years. A total of 6510 interviews were conducted in Wave 2 (including 350 End of Life interviews), thus representing a 78% response rate.


    To date, NICOLA has captured extensive information on physical and cognitive health, mental wellbeing, health and social care utilization, health behaviours, medication, employment, finances, retirement, social connectedness and social participation, transport, housing, risk preference and diet. The health assessment (Wave 1) included measurements of cognitive function, visual health, respiratory function, cardiovascular function and physical function and participants were also asked to provide biological samples for detailed laboratory analysis, including genetic analysis. The dietary assessment (Wave 1) was performed using the validated (in younger populations) 130-item FFQ (EPIC-Norfolk).

    Contact Information

    NICOLA Office
    Centre for Public Health
    Queen's University Belfast
    Institute of Clinical Science B
    Royal Victoria Hospital
    Grosvenor Road
    BT12 6BJ

    T:  +44 (0) 2890978920



NI Clinical Research Facility,
U Floor, Belfast City Hospital,
Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7AB

Tel:+44 (0)28 9504 0342

Connect to the NICRF