about Lifelines

Initially, Lifelines participants were recruited through general practitioners in the three provinces in the northern part of the Netherlands: Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe.

about Lifelines


To move forward to more personalised health care and prevention, we need to understand why some people grow old in good health while others contract diseases. A longitudinal study among a large number of individuals offers the opportunity of collecting data with which the mechanisms of ageing and the development of (chronic) diseases can be studied.

Lifelines collects data and biological samples on a large scale, creating a unique biobank and databank. Wherever possible, the collected data and samples are made available for research and policies on healthy ageing. More information can be found in our brochure.

study design

The Lifelines study follows over 167,000 participants over a 30-year period. Every five years, participants visit one of the Lifelines sites in the northern parts of the Netherlands for an examination. During this visit, several physical measurements are made and participants are asked to fill in questionnaires. In addition, participants are invited to complete a follow-up questionnaire once every 1.5 years. You can find an overview of the collected data and samples for children and adults here.

lifelines participants

Initially, Lifelines participants were recruited through general practitioners in the three provinces in the northern part of the Netherlands: Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe. General practitioners invited everyone aged between 25 and 50. These individuals were then asked to invite their family members (parents, partner, children, parents-in-law). This approach has resulted in a three-generation cohort. Other interested individuals could also register for participation in the Lifelines study. Between 2006 and 2013, over 167,000 participants registered.

research protocol

The Lifelines cohort distinguishes a children's cohort (aged 0-18), an adult cohort (aged 18-65) and the elderly cohort (aged 65+). The protocol for these three sub-cohorts is largely the same, but focuses in part on the characteristics of the specific participant groups. For detailed information on the protocol, see the Lifelines Adult Protocol and the Lifelines Child Protocol. These protocols can be requested from research@lifelines.nl. In addition, the article Scholtens et al. 2015 contains a clear description of the Lifelines study, while the article Klijs et al. 2015 describes the representativeness of the Lifelines cohort.

benefits of the Lifelines cohort

  • The design of the Lifelines study enables scientists to perform cross-sectional, longitudinal and observational research with the collected data. Because participants are followed over a long period of time, the Lifelines data provide a good basis for research into the development of diseases and disorders.
  • The size of the Lifelines cohort enables specific analyses of subgroups while retaining sufficient power. The large cohort allows studying rare conditions as well as effects of unusual exposure. The design of the study also lends itself well to multi-level analyses.
  • All ages are represented in the Lifelines cohort: children, adults and the elderly. The cohort also comprises a group of healthy people and a group of people with various diseases and disorders. The Lifelines cohort thus offers the possibility of studying a wide variety of target groups. As such, the cohort can also be used as a control group.
  • The three-generational structure within the cohort enables the study of both genetic and non-genetic properties. Moreover, this structure of the Lifelines cohort offers unique possibilities for studying social properties such as socio-economic mobility and partner preferences, for instance. Genetic predispositions for diseases can also be studied. 

possibilities for additional studies

The Lifelines cohort study has an open protocol. On the one hand, this means that a fixed protocol is observed to follow study participants over time. On the other hand, it also offers researchers the opportunity to collect additional data and/or biological samples within the existing infrastructure. To this end, researchers can submit an application for an additional study. This allows them to obtain an additional questionnaire or collect additional samples among a group of participants. Please contact the Research Office for more information on the possibilities of an additional study.