Children of the 90s: Founder of life-saving study says she never expected it to go on for so long

  • ITV West Country's Louisa Britton sat down with Professor Jean Golding

A woman behind a pioneering research study into the health of mothers and babies has said she can't believe it's gone on for so long.

Professor Jean Golding, an epidemiologist at the University of Bristol, set up the Bristol-based Children of the 90s project in the early 90s.

Since then, it has followed the lives of tens of thousands of children born between 1991 and 1992.

Now, there's a third generation being studied, known as the children of the children of the 90s, which is helping scientists understand generational differences and patterns.

For the first time in a decade, hundreds of participants, including three generations of the same family, gathered in Bristol to share their stories of being involved.

In some families, three generations of people are now involved in the study.

Speaking to ITV West Country after the event, Professor Golding said she never expected the project to go on for so long.

"I don't think I had contemplated that I would even be alive for so long, let alone whether it would continue," she said.

"I had of course planned for it to be a long-term follow-up of the children. But I wouldn't have got as far as 30, let alone 33 years."

The findings of the project have helped shape our understanding of a range of subjects including cot death, allergies and even picky eaters.

Its findings have informed policy, with a recent study on internet use and suicide being used for a parliamentary report about the impact of social media on mental health.

"I think it's saved about 100,000 lives worldwide," Professor Jean Golding said. "You can't minimise that. It's huge."

She added that one of the most important results of the study has been changing the way scientists think about women's mental health.

"One of the first things we showed was that depression in pregnancy was important," she said. "I mean, before that, everybody talked about post-partum depression, so once the child was born."

She added: "We showed that women get far more depressed during pregnancy than they do afterwards."

Nearly 15,000 women pregnant women signed up for the study when it began in the early 90s.

Now a new generation of children are taking part, and Professor Jean Golding said she hopes it will continue to make a difference for years to come.

"Well, I think the legacy should be better health, better understanding and better advice," she said.

Anyone who was born in Bristol or Weston-super-Mare between April 1991 and December 1992 and who is interested in being involved in the study, is encouraged to visit this website for more information.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...