Why My Body Has Been Studied For Science My Whole Life

Children of the 90s. Some of you may have heard of it, some of you may be none the wiser. You are more likely to recognise the name if you are from Bristol as it’s a scientific research study founded in the city, collecting data from, you guessed it, children born in the 90s. More specifically, those born from April 1991 – December 1992.

When my mum was pregnant, back in 1991, she was approached to be part of this research group – agreeing to having herself and her baby (that’s me) monitored and measured. Speaking to my mum, she has told me that she took this as an opportunity to ensure I was healthy. After all, the study was agreeing to carry out in-depth health checks for the foreseeable future. And my mum being a nurse, was only too used to medical procedures such as giving blood etc so it didn’t seem daunting at all.

Little did she know then that the project would continue to be funded and the study would grow into the largest of its kind worldwide. It’s officially called the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Since its creation, Children of the 90s has published thousands of research papers on a range of different topics.

Me and my lovely mum (on the London Eye on the wettest, cloudiest day known to man)

Research that stands out to me are things like…

-It is actually better for babies to sleep on their backs

-Young children who are regularly read to and talked to (rather than watching TV) will have a head start in school academically

-Harmless household germs can be good for children, to build sufficient immune systems

-If you eat healthily during pregnancy, your child is more likely to like healthy foods by the age of 10

In 2012, we were actually sent an entire book which celebrated the study and collated all of the study’s key findings. You can view a PDF version here.

So what does it actually involve? 

Whenever I try to explain my involvement to people, I find it really difficult – mainly because the topics covered by the study are so broad, spanning mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Basically, it involves filling in regular questionnaires (originally on paper, but now online) and also attending appointments (usually yearly) for tests/scans/donations.

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I TRIED TO LEARN THE SPLITS IN JUST 30 DAYS

But, just to give you an idea, over the (almost) 30 years, these are just SOME of the things I’ve undergone:

  • Blood samples
  • Skin samples
  • Hair samples
  • Nail samples (yes my clippings were sent in the post!)
  • Teeth samples (luckily just the baby ones that fell out of their own accord)
  • Urine samples 
  • Saliva samples
  • Bone density scans 
  • Cognitive tests
  • Hearing tests
  • Eyesight tests 
  • Lung capacity tests 
  • Heart scans 
  • Fitness tests
Me as a baby (and yes, before you ask, I’m still partial to a biscuit or five now…)

THESE ARE THE HARDEST THINGS ABOUT RUNNING

Why do I participate?

Of course, my initial involvement wasn’t voluntary as it was my mum who signed me up before I was even born, but I’m so happy that she did. Many people have dropped out of Children of the 90s over the years, as it can be considered a commitment to keep it up, but I’m determined to continue. I love the thought that I’m actually contributing to scientific research that in turn actually influences people’s lives.

As I said, they have published many research papers and so you’ll find that some of their evidence is now used to inform the pregnant women and new mums of today. They even conduct studies now of children of children of the 90s which is a pretty cool concept – and who knows, maybe one day my kids will be part of it too!

Because you are giving up your time (and sometimes random parts of your body), they are very good at offering compensation in the form of expenses for travel and sometimes shopping vouchers! But the reason I am involved is because makes me feel all warm and fluffy inside to think I’m actually making a difference in the world… even if that is by sending my toe nail clippings off in the post.

During the coronavirus outbreak and the global pandemic, Children of the 90s sprung into action with their expertise to conduct some independent research to understand the virus better. I took part in multiple surveys, which covered mental wellbeing questions as well as physical wellbeing, and they are already beginning to publish the findings.

To learn more, check out their website.

Main feature image shot by Stephanie O’Callaghan

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