UCL News


UCL health study receives prestigious accolade

14 March 2003

The President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has praised the UCL Whitehall Study into social inequalities in health.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot leads the Whitehall II study In his prestigious President's Lecture at the 2003 AAAS Annual Meeting, Dr Floyd E Bloom stated: "Exemplary social science research - such as the Whitehall Study and a recent 25 year follow-up report - should serve as a model for researchers seeking to advance human welfare worldwide through improved medical care."

The long-term study examines the effect of the social environment on health and the causes of social inequalities on health. Currently in its second phase (Whitehall II), the study takes particular interest in various influences on health among white collar workers, such as job insecurity and the interaction between work and home.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot (Epidemiology & Public Health) leads the Whitehall Study research team. He stated: "Conducting research of this type requires an assiduous approach, and our large team of people have contributed countless hours over many years. A buzz went round our corridors when the President of the AAAS - a man none of us knew - said that our studies should be the stimulus for rethinking US health policy. That makes the years of work worthwhile; it really helps to know that a scientist from another field is listening and thinks it's important."

The first Whitehall Study began in 1967 and involved more than 18,000 male civil servants employed at Whitehall. Aiming to assess the relationship between job status and health, it showed that men in higher grades lived longer than those in lower grades. Having lower status was also linked to having less leisure time, high blood pressure and obesity.

Dr Bloom called for a national commission as the US health care system faces a number of crises: "The puzzles of better health promotion and disease prevention may be approached more rapidly and effectively through intensified social science research, rather than by awaiting the expected evolution of gene-based explanations and interventions based on future genetic discoveries."