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Whitehall Study Cataloguing Project Commences at LSHTM Archives

Written by Chris Olver, LSHTM Cataloguing Archivist.

In January 2017, the LSHTM Library & Archive service began a cataloguing project relating to the Health Survey of Male Civil Servants aged 40 or over, more commonly referred to as the Whitehall Study. This eight-month cataloguing project, generously funded by the Wellcome Trust Research Resources grant, will over the duration of the project preserve, catalogue and make the collection accessible via our online cataloguing system.

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Layout of the Whitehall Study I clinic

 

The Whitehall Study, was a cohort study involving over 18,000 male civil servants, aged 45-60, working in London, conducted from 1967-1977, focusing on risk factors relating to cardiovascular disease and mortality rates within the civil service. The study involved a clinical examination and completion of a self-assessed questionnaire by each volunteer during the initial health screening, and then they were monitored for the rest of their lives. Follow-up studies were conducted along with controlled prevention studies on the impact of anti-smoking and dietary clinics and long term effects of exercise on mortality.

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Blank copy of a Whitehall Study I questionnaire. Second page of 4 ft. questions on exercise, respiratory and cardiovascular health.

 

One of key findings of the study demonstrated that there was significant differences in life expectancy depending on employment grade. Higher graded civil servants showed only a third of the mortality rate compared to lower grade employees, most notably for cardiovascular heart disease death rates. This result went against perceived thinking of the time which attributed higher rates of cardiovascular disease with high stressed jobs and therefore assumption that executives or managers would be more likely to be at risk of the disease. The conclusion of the study made it clear that social environment played a significant part in diagnosis from the disease and led to a new cohort study, Whitehall II, being established in 1985. This study of civil servants, aged 35 to 55, included women this time around, and is still ongoing at University College London.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine collection contains the initial data collection of Whitehall I survey along with the analysis undertaken by the investigation team. This includes raw data from the questionnaires, electrocardiogram readings, X-rays reports and blood tests taken from the study along with mortality and sickness data which was also collected. The collection includes all the follow-up and controlled studies associated with Whitehall I study and background papers and correspondence relating to its origin and administration. The collection also contains material relating to other studies conducted by the Department of Medical Statistics, such as the General Post Office study, along with early work from eminent epidemiologists, Geoffrey Rose and Donald Reid.

The collection will be searchable on the Archives online catalogue from August 2017, and access to view the material can be obtained by appointment by contacting the Archives at .

Further information on the progress of the project can be found on the Library’s blog and Twitter page, along with a variety of outreach events based on the collection.

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