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£3.6m grant for Cardiff University researchers to study link between physical and mental health problems

16 July 2021

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A research team from the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (MRC CNGG) has received significant funding for an international collaborative project.

The £3,632,000 grant from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and The National Institute for Health Research will enable research teams across the UK and Denmark to work together over the next four years as part of the LIfespaN multimorbidity research Collaborative (LINC).

Multimorbidity refers to the presence of multiple chronic health conditions within the same individual.

Research teams from the University of Bristol, the University of Leeds, Queen Mary University of London, the Mental Health Services Capital Region of Denmark Roskilde University, the University of Exeter and Wellcome Sanger Institute will collaborate on the project.

Professor Marianne van den Bree at the MRC CNGG, who will lead the Research Collaborative, said of the grant:

I am absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to work together with the fantastic multidisciplinary team we have brought together under the LINC umbrella. LINC can make real strides in understanding the genetic and environmental causes for physical and mental health multimorbidity.
Marianne van den Bree Professor, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences

"Our unique data resource will allow us to track multimorbidity development throughout the lifespan and to identify factors early in life that increase the risk of later development of multimorbidity of internalising and cardiometabolic disorders.”

The Research Collaborative will study why people with mental health disorders are more likely to develop physical health conditions and vice versa.

The research will shine a light on some of the factors that cause children to have special educational needs and disability (SEND) and help identify approaches to support these children in school settings to improve their health in the long term.

Professor Mark Mon-Williams from the University of Leeds, Co-investigator and Impact Lead added, “LINC offers an incredible opportunity to connect health and education services early in a child’s life so they can enjoy better long-term physical and mental health. The research opens up the exciting possibility of revolutionising the support provided to children with SEND and transforming service provision for children and young people.”

LINC will focus on multimorbidity between internalising disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and cardiometabolic disorders, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and explore the early life factors that can be changed to prevent these diseases.

The project will bring together up to 760,000 participants. These cohorts are diverse in nature and include people of various ages, from children to adults, from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.

The health of participants is followed over time, with information available from medical notes of primary and secondary care, study interviews, questionnaires and laboratory-based assessments, such as blood pressure and glucose and lipid levels.

Rich information on risk and protective factors is also obtained regularly on deprivation or stressful experiences. The availability of DNA across all five cohorts will allow the study of the role of genes in multimorbidity development.

LINC aims to improve the understanding of factors contributing to the early preclinical risk stages of multimorbidity in young people. This can inform prevention strategies early in life aiming to reduce later risk of multimorbidity development.

The research is expected to yield new insights into why some people develop physical and mental health multimorbidity, while others do not, and to explain differences in risk between men and women, people of different ethnic backgrounds and people of different socio-economic positions. These insights can contribute towards efforts to reduce health inequalities in society.

The grant was awarded after a two-stage process, with initial funding to enable building of the Research Collaborative received in April 2020. The new large-scale award will begin in the autumn of 2021.

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