Endowed professorship allows dive into data to understand aging

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Lauren GriffithReaching retirement may seem like a dream. But for some, one or two chronic conditions can turn that dream into a difficulty. Those chronic conditions range from back pain, cognitive decline, arthritis, and diseases which limit the expectant lifespan of an individual.

However, a researcher from the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging is delving into how society can understand the impact of concurrent chronic illnesses, or multimorbidity, on physical functioning and mobility through the analysis of large, population-level datasets from Canada, Europe and the U.S.

Lauren Griffith is the holder of the McLaughlin Foundation Professorship in Population and Public Health, in part funded through a $1 million donation in 2001 from the R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation.

Griffith, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics, received her Master’s degree in biostatistics from the University of Michigan and her PhD in epidemiology from the University of Toronto. She has co-authored more than 150 peer-reviewed publications.

With an interest in researching multimorbidity and the trajectories of physical functioning, Griffith uses data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging (CLSA), a national study of aging following more than 50,000 Canadians.

Data from the CLSA will help to shed light on which combinations of chronic conditions impact everyday activities in middle-aged and older men and women in Canada.

“McMaster University is an important key in developing this work as the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging resides here, and the CLSA is developing into a treasure trove of information,” said Griffith, who is the Hamilton site lead and associate scientific director of the project.

The research is needed, she said, because most older adults live with one or more chronic conditions and, by better understanding the situation and related issues, interventions may be developed to assist them.

Griffith’s research has also involved her with Maelstrom Research at McGill University. She is co-leading a methodology group to create and support national and international collaborations, and to facilitate data harmonization, integration and analysis of international cohort studies in Europe and North America.