Queen Mary University of London: Queen Mary researchers to study the link between physical and mental health

The £3.6 million grant from the Medical Research Council 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. It is very common for people with mental health problems (such as depression and anxiety) to develop physical health problems (e.g. type 2 diabetes, heart disease), and vice versa. It is not known why this is, or if there are any early life factors that can be changed to prevent this mental and physical health multimorbidity from occurring.

‘An exciting and ambitious study’
LINC will bring together five large research populations (or ‘cohorts’), in which close to 760,000 people are participating. Genes & Health is one of these cohorts, and represents British Bangladeshi and Pakistani people who are disproportionately affected by some chronic health conditions.

The teams will study participants using health data, study interviews questionnaires and laboratory-based assessments (for example blood pressure and glucose and lipid levels). Participants have also generously donated samples to study DNA, allowing the study of the role of genes in multimorbidity development.

Dr Sarah Finer, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Diabetes, will lead research for the LINC programme at Queen Mary and has been awarded £650,000 as part of this grant. She says: “This is an exciting and ambitious study which has real potential to understand how multimorbidity is caused, and what we can do to prevent it in the future.

“We are very grateful to our Genes & Health study participants for making this possible, and ensuring that our research represents British Bangladeshis and Pakistanis who experience disproportionately high rates of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and at young ages.”

Reducing health inequalities in society
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. It is hoped that this will inform better prevention and treatment approaches, starting in early in life, to reduce later risk of multimorbidity development.

Professor Marianne van den Bree at the MRC CNGG, who will lead the Research Collaborative, said: “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.”

In addition to Queen Mary and Cardiff University, research teams from the University of Bristol, the University of Leeds, the Mental Health Services Capital Region of Denmark Roskilde University, the University of Exeter and Wellcome Sanger Institute will collaborate on the project, and will include other cohorts, including Born In Bradford, Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, UK Biobank and iPSYCH.