NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study
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History of this Study

From 1995 through 1996, we mailed 3.5 million questionnaires to current members of the AARP (formally the American Association of Retired Persons), aged 50-71 years, who resided in one of six states (California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Louisiana) or in two metropolitan areas (Atlanta, Georgia and Detroit, Michigan). The questionnaire included a dietary section as well as some lifestyle questions. Over 500,000 people returned the questionnaire, making this the largest study of diet and health ever conducted! In 1996-1997 we mailed our participants a Risk-Factor Questionnaire that asked additional questions, including physical activity, cancer screening and family medical history, and early life diet and body size. In 2004-2006 we mailed our Follow-Up Questionnaire that included questions about topics such as physical activity, medication use, other health diagnoses, and family history of cancer.

Investigators have followed-up with state cancer registries and the National Death Index to find out whether participants had cancer or died since joining the study. Linkages to other resources have further enriched the study. These included Medicare files, Census files, geospatial datasets and air pollution data. Analyses resulting from summarized data have greatly improved public knowledge of lifestyle risk factors and cancer and mortality, such as the health benefits of coffee drinking and the adverse effects of sedentary behavior.

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