Are medical surveys good for our health?

Invitations have been pouring through letterboxes all over the UK to take part in the Biobank.

If you haven’t received one already, let me explain what this particular bank wants from you (thankfully, it doesn’t involve money). The Biobank is a research project, and its aim is no less than to improve the “health of future generations”.

Funded by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Health, among other bodies, it is recruiting half a million people between 40 and 69 to be surveyed about their health. They will be followed for several decades, in some cases until death. People will be asked about health, lifestyle, work, family history, and have blood and urine samples taken for storage. They will also have tests for blood pressure, bone density and lung function. The researchers may ask for permission to access medical notes, and they may in future examine blood for genetic factors.

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