CLSA Overview

The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) is one of CIHR's Major Strategic Initiatives. Its development was championed by the Institute of Aging. The fundamental goal of this initiative is to mobilize experts in the community to generate the scientific content for a longitudinal research platform that will enable interdisciplinary, population-based research and evidence-based decision-making that will lead to better health and quality of life for Canadians.

The CLSA is a unique longitudinal data platform involving more than 160 researchers and collaborators across 26 institutions that is following approximately 51,338 Canadian men and women who were between the ages of 45 and 85 (at inception) for at least 20 years. The study collects information on the changing biological, medical, psychological, social, and economic aspects of people's lives. These factors will be studied in order to understand how, individually and in combination, they have an impact in both maintaining health and in the development of disease and disability as people age. The CLSA is the largest platform of its kind in Canada, and one of the largest platforms internationally for its breadth and depth.

All 51,338 participants provide a core set of data on demographic and lifestyle/behaviour measures, social measures, anthropometric measures, psychological measures, socio-economic measures, and health status measures. More than thirty thousand of the 51,338 (CLSA Comprehensive) participants contribute additional information on their diet, medication use, chronic diseases and sleep patterns, and have physical measurements and blood and urine samples taken at a local data collection site. The remaining 21,241 (CLSA Tracking) provide the core information set through telephone interviews. During the 20-year study, CLSA participants are followed up with every three years.

The CLSA is managed by Lead Principal Investigator Parminder Raina (McMaster University) and Principal Investigators Susan Kirkland (Dalhousie University) and Christina Wolfson (McGill University). The leadership team also includes Co-Principal Investigators Lauren Griffith (McMaster University) and Cynthia Balion (McMaster University), and Associate Scientific Director Andrew Costa (McMaster University). They lead a team of more than 160 co-investigators and collaborators from 26 Canadian universities, who are working together on this innovative, multidisciplinary study, including:

  • Scott Hofer (University of Victoria)
  • Teresa Liu-Ambrose (University of British Columbia)
  • Andrew Wister (Simon Fraser University)
  • David Hogan (University of Calgary)
  • Verena Menec (University of Manitoba)
  • Lauren Griffith (McMaster University)
  • Larry W. Chambers (Bruyère Continuing Care)
  • Vanessa Taler (Bruyère Continuing Care)
  • Benoît Cossette (Université de Sherbrooke)
  • Gerry Mugford (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

To enable data collection and analysis, the CLSA has established the following state-of-the-art infrastructure across the country:

  • National Coordinating Centre (Hamilton, ON)
  • Biorepository and Bioanalysis Centre (Hamilton, ON)
  • Data Curation Center (Montreal, QC)
  • Genetics and Epigenetics Centre (Vancouver, BC)
  • 11 Data Collection Sites (Victoria, BC; Vancouver, BC; Surrey, BC; Calgary, AB; Winnipeg, MB; Hamilton ON; Ottawa ON; Montreal QC; Sherbrooke, QC; Halifax, NS; and St. John’s, NL)
  • 5 Computer-Assisted Telephone Interview Centres (Vancouver, BC; Winnipeg MB; Sherbrooke, QC; and Halifax, NS)
  • Information Technology Hub (Hamilton, ON)

In 2015, the CLSA completed recruitment of 51,388 participants. Follow-up 1 was completed in 2018 and Follow-up 2 was completed in 2021 with about 92% retention from baseline. Follow-up 3 started in September 2021. Since the first data release in 2015, more than 400 research teams in Canada and around the world have accessed the CLSA research platform.

In 2020, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the CLSA launched three sub-studies to examine the impact of COVID-19 on middle aged and older adults in Canada. More information about the COVID-19 Questionnaire Study, the COVID-19 Seroprevalence (Antibody) Study and the COVID-19 Brain Health Study are available on the CLSA COVID-19 Studies on the CLSA Website.

Healthy Brains, Healthy Aging, an initiative supported by the Weston Family Foundation, will be launched in 2022 to enhance the CLSA research platform with brain imaging and gut microbiome analyses. The introduction of these measures will help shed light on factors that influence brain health and healthy aging outcomes.

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