Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


ATHLOS Report Summary

Project ID: 635316
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ATHLOS (Ageing Trajectories of Health: Longitudinal Opportunities and Synergies)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2016-10-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Understanding the processes and determinants of healthy ageing is important, not merely because we all want to live longer, but because we want our years to be active and healthy. With declining fertility and increasing life expectancy, populations in Europe and elsewhere are ageing rapidly, and at an increasing pace, making it more urgent to understand how to ensure that ageing is healthy. Ageing is a dynamic process, starting before birth that is highly variable and affected by many determinants. It is convenient to speak of ‘trajectories’ of health in order to capture this variation. A health trajectory is a pathway from birth to death defined in terms of length of life (longevity) and health status (the extent of morbidity, disability, or less than optimal health, experienced at a point in time). The objective of the ATHLOS Project is to achieve a better understanding of ageing by identifying patterns of healthy ageing pathways or trajectories, the determinants of those patterns, the critical points in time when changes in trajectories are produced, and to propose timely clinical and public health interventions to optimize healthy ageing. Moreover, a new definition of ‘old age’ including not only chronological age but also health status to define an aged person will be used for calculating projections in specific population groups, and guide policy recommendations. To do so, the Consortium will create a harmonised dataset with over 400,000 individuals collated from existing longitudinal studies of ageing and including information on physical and mental health, biomarkers, life style habits, social environment and participation, among others. A single metric of healthy ageing will be calculated using Item Response Theory (IRT) methods with individual items from the surveys will be used. Diverse complex statistical models will be employed to define the health trajectories. Specific interventions both at the clinical and population level will be designed based on ATHLOS. The impact of these interventions on healthy ageing will be assessed with micro-simulation methods. Stakeholders will participate in the definition of outcomes, the creation of interventions and dissemination of results. ATHLOS will make available to scientists and stakeholders its resources by providing access to the methodology of harmonisation and to the mega-data set of ageing cohorts. To maximise the policy impact, target audiences will be indentified and specific materials disseminated

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During this reporting period, most of the activities have been dedicated to the creation of the ATHLOS harmonized dataset that includes information from 19 different studies. General survey data (questionnaires, user’s guides, manuals, booklets, etc) and individual level data were collected for most of the studies. As preparation work for the harmonisation, a catalogue which includes study descriptions and data dictionaries using a common format was created. Variables were categorized into 17 domains. In each of the domains, common or similar variables can be selected in an easy, practical way. The ATHLOS consortium members have chosen the core variables of the harmonised data set and all the variables that have to be harmonised. We are currently finalizing the algorithms that will be used to transform the original study variables to the harmonized common variables.
The procedure for creating the metric of health has been tested in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) dataset, allowing for the comparison of scores across the six ELSA waves considered. For this first specific aim, a step-by-step approach was conducted, assessing the unidimensionality of the self-reported health questions and measured tests found in ELSA at baseline and identifying the common items across the remaining ELSA waves. Then, a global health score was generated for each wave using a methodology which allows for the inclusion of anchor items and items that vary across waves (i.e., items that are available at baseline but not in all the remaining waves of the study). When the harmonised ATHLOS data set is available, this same methodology will be employed to obtain health scores which can be compared across the ATHLOS studies.
For the description of patterns of trajectories, determinants and inequalities of healthy ageing, we carried out one of the largest systematic reviews on this topic (with 92747 articles scrutinised in the initial search). The systematic review was recently completed and the results are currently being written up.
Dissemination and communication strategy and a data management plan were prepared and submitted to the EC. The ATHLOS project is promoted through various communication activities to multiple audiences: - a global ATHLOS project website describing all the partners, and also describing the ATHLOS overall achievements (; - kick-off and periodic press releases to communicate ATHLOS efforts and achievements to all audiences (; - active presence of ATHLOS in social media, including project profiles on Facebook (, Twitter (, and YouTube: (

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The ATHLOS project will provide a better understanding of pathways of healthy ageing, underpinning future strategies for the promotion of healthy ageing, targeted disease prevention, and clinical interventions.
The ATHLOS methodology allows us to directly compare the negative impact of different risk factors, as well as the health benefits of different interventions, on ageing trajectories. ATHLOS will estimate, quantitatively, the combined effects of different exposures, diseases, and behaviours that jointly contribute to ill health as we age.
Additionally, ATHLOS responds to the urgent need to promote active and healthy ageing while ensuring the sustainability and equity of European health and social systems. Therefore, ATHLOS results aim to assist European policy makers in making evidence-informed decisions regarding all aspects of public disease prevention and health promotion programs.
On the 15th of April 2016, ATHLOS submitted the commitment for involvement in the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing – Integrated Care group (EIP AHA -B3 group). The contribution of the ATHLOS project in this group is providing a methodology and approach that will enhance our general understanding of healthy ageing and contribute to more sustainable and efficient health and social systems.
The knowledge translation work package will provide a concrete microsimulation mechanism (MSM) in which alternative policy options can be compared. This model will inform on the cost effectiveness of different interventions if applied in a particular population. In preparation for this work, on the 10th of October, 2016, the main contributors of this work package met to refine the aims, tasks, and timing for the sequence of activities in this WP that will be start during the second reporting period. During the meeting, the uses of macro indicators in the ATHLOS project, and the social determinants to be included in the MSM were also discussed. Qualitative research will be conducted, including interactions with stakeholders, to integrate the ATHLOS findings and recommend guidelines for healthy ageing.

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