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1.  Smoking in young women in Scotland and future burden of hospital admission and death: a nested cohort study 
The British Journal of General Practice  2013;63(613):e523-e533.
Many women smoke, yet few longitudinal studies have examined the non-fatal burden of smoking in women.
To investigate smoking in young women, and hospital admission and death in Scotland; and to compare mortality risk with elsewhere in the UK.
Design and setting
Nested cohort study: Royal College of General Practitioners’ Oral Contraception Study, UK.
A total of 4121 women categorised by smoking habits and living in Scotland at recruitment (1968–1969) were followed until March 2009. Cox regression was used to investigate smoking and survival time; mortality from cancer, circulatory, or respiratory disease, and all other causes; and hospitalisation for any reason, and for specific reasons. The number and type of hospital admissions and bed-days were examined by smoking status. Life tables and Cox regression were used to compare the mortality risk of women living in Scotland with that of women living elsewhere.
All-cause mortality was increased in women who smoked <15 cigarettes daily (adjusted hazard ratio = 1.99, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.74 to 2.27) and those who smoked ≥15 cigarettes daily (adjusted HR = 2.81, 95% CI = 2.47 to 3.20). Smoking any amount increased death from cancer, circulatory, respiratory, and other causes. Increased risk estimates were seen in one or both smoking groups for hospitalisation for any cause, and for several specific causes. More smokers than non-smokers were admitted to hospital, for four or more reasons, and had a longer total stay. The median survival age among smokers was lower in Scotland than elsewhere. Higher adjusted hazard ratios for mortality were found among smokers in Scotland.
This study provides a powerful reminder of the burden of smoking in young women. In the UK, harmful effects appear to be worse in smokers in Scotland.
PMCID: PMC3722829  PMID: 23972193
cohort studies; general practice; hospitalisation; mortality; smoking; women
2.  Resilience does matter: evidence from a 10-year cohort record linkage study 
BMJ Open  2014;4(1):e003917.
To examine 10-year mortality and hospital use among individuals categorised as resilient and vulnerable to the impact of chronic pain.
A cohort record linkage study.
Grampian, Scotland.
5858 individuals from the Grampian Pain Cohort, established in 1996, were linked, by probability matching, with national routinely collected datasets.
Main outcome measures
HRs for subsequent 10-year mortality and ORs/incidence rate ratios for subsequent 10-year hospital use, each with adjustment for potential confounding variables.
36.5% of those with high pain intensity reported a low pain-related disability (categorised resilient) and 7.1% of those reporting low pain intensity reported a high pain-related disability (categorised vulnerable). Sex, age, housing, employment and long-term limiting illness were independently associated with being vulnerable or resilient. After adjustment for these variables, individuals in the resilient group were 25% less likely to die within 10 years of the survey compared with non-resilient individuals: HR 0.75, 95% CI 0.62 to 0.91 and vulnerable individuals were 45% more likely to die than non-vulnerable individuals: HR 1.45, 95% CI 1.01 to 2.11. Resilient individuals were less likely to have had an outpatient or day-case visit for anaesthetics: OR 0.46, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.79, but no other clinical specialities. Vulnerable individuals were significantly less likely to have had any outpatient or day-case visit (OR 0.43, 0.25 to 0.75); but more likely to have had a psychiatric visit (OR 1.96, 1.06 to 3.61). No significant differences in likelihood of any inpatient visits were found.
Resilient individuals have a better 10-year survival than non-resilient individuals indicating that resilience is a phenomenon worth researching. Further research is needed to explore who is likely to become resilient, why and how, as well as to tease out the internal and external factors that influence resilience.
PMCID: PMC3902361  PMID: 24430878
3.  Maternal obesity during pregnancy and premature mortality from cardiovascular event in adult offspring: follow-up of 1 323 275 person years 
Objectives To determine whether maternal obesity during pregnancy is associated with increased mortality from cardiovascular events in adult offspring.
Design Record linkage cohort analysis.
Setting Birth records from the Aberdeen Maternity and Neonatal databank linked to the General Register of Deaths, Scotland, and the Scottish Morbidity Record systems.
Population 37 709 people with birth records from 1950 to present day.
Main outcome measures Death and hospital admissions for cardiovascular events up to 1 January 2012 in offspring aged 34-61. Maternal body mass index (BMI) was calculated from height and weight measured at the first antenatal visit. The effect of maternal obesity on outcomes in offspring was tested with time to event analysis with Cox proportional hazard regression to compare outcomes in offspring of mothers in underweight, overweight, or obese categories of BMI compared with offspring of women with normal BMI.
Results All cause mortality was increased in offspring of obese mothers (BMI >30) compared with mothers with normal BMI after adjustment for maternal age at delivery, socioeconomic status, sex of offspring, current age, birth weight, gestation at delivery, and gestation at measurement of BMI (hazard ratio 1.35, 95% confidence interval 1.17 to 1.55). In adjusted models, offspring of obese mothers also had an increased risk of hospital admission for a cardiovascular event (1.29, 1.06 to 1.57) compared with offspring of mothers with normal BMI. The offspring of overweight mothers also had a higher risk of adverse outcomes.
Conclusions Maternal obesity is associated with an increased risk of premature death in adult offspring. As one in five women in the United Kingdom is obese at antenatal booking, strategies to optimise weight before pregnancy are urgently required.
PMCID: PMC3805484  PMID: 23943697
4.  Impact of the pay-for-performance contract and the management of hypertension in Scottish primary care: a 6-year population-based repeated cross-sectional study 
The British Journal of General Practice  2011;61(588):e443-e451.
The 2004 introduction of the pay-for-performance contract has increased the proportion of income that GPs are able to earn by targeting quality care to patients with chronic diseases such as hypertension.
To investigate the impact of pay for performance on the management of patients with hypertension in Scottish primary care.
Design and setting
A population-based repeated cross-sectional study in Scottish primary care practices (n = 315) contributing to the Primary Care Clinical Informatics Unit database.
A dataset was extracted on 826 973 patients aged ≥40 years including, age, sex, socioeconomic deprivation status, hypertension diagnosis, recorded blood pressure measurement, attainment of target blood pressure levels, and provision of hypertension-related prescribing for each year from 2001 until 2006.
Increasing treatment for hypertension (absolute difference [AD] 9.2%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 9.0 to 9.5) occurred throughout the study period. The majority of increases found in blood pressure measurement (AD 46.8%; 95% CI = 46.5 to 47.1) and recorded hypertension (AD 5.9%; 95% CI = 5.7 to 6.0) occurred prior to 2004. Blood pressure control increased throughout the study period (absolute increase ≤140/90 mmHg; 18.9%; 95% CI = 18.5 to 19.4). After 2004, the oldest female, as well as the male and female patients with the greatest socioeconomic deprivation status, became less likely than their youngest (<40 years) and most affluent counterparts to have a blood pressure measurement recorded (P<0.05). Patients not prescribed therapy were younger and had higher blood pressure levels (P<0.001).
It is likely that the continued efforts of general practice to improve hypertension diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment will reduce future cardiovascular events and mortality in those with hypertension. However, there is a need to follow up patients who are older and more socioeconomically deprived once they are diagnosed, as well as prescribing antihypertensive therapy to younger patients, who are likely to benefit from early intervention.
PMCID: PMC3123508  PMID: 21722469
disease management; epidemiology; hypertension; pay for performance; prescriptions; primary care
5.  Incongruous consultation behaviour: results from a UK-wide population survey 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:21.
Symptom characteristics are strong drivers of care seeking. Despite this, incongruous consultation behaviour occurs and has implications for both individuals and health-care services. The aim of this study was to determine how frequently incongruous consultation behaviour occurs, to examine whether it is more common for certain types of symptoms and to identify the factors associated with being an incongruous consulter.
An age and sex stratified random sample of 8,000 adults was drawn from twenty UK general practices. A postal questionnaire was used to collect detailed information on the presence and characteristics of 25 physical and psychological symptoms, actions taken to manage the symptoms, general health, attitudes to symptom management and demographic/socio-economic details. Two types of incongruous consultation behaviour were examined: i) consultation with a GP for symptoms self-rated as low impact and ii) no consultation with a GP for symptoms self-rated as high impact.
A fifth of all symptoms experienced resulted in consultation behaviour which was incongruous based on respondents' own rating of the symptoms' impact. Low impact consultations were not common, although symptoms indicative of a potentially serious condition resulted in a higher proportion of low impact consultations. High impact non-consultations were more common, although there was no clear pattern in the type of associated symptoms. Just under half of those experiencing symptoms in the previous two weeks were categorised as an incongruous consulter (low impact consulter: 8.3%, high impact non-consulter: 37.1%). Employment status, having a chronic condition, poor health, and feeling that reassurance or advice from a health professional is important were associated with being a low impact consulter. Younger age, employment status, being an ex-smoker, poor health and feeling that not wasting the GPs time is important were associated with being a high impact non-consulter.
This is one of the first studies to examine incongruous consultation behaviour for a range of symptoms. High impact non-consultations were common and may have important health implications, particularly for symptoms indicative of serious disease. More research is now needed to examine incongruous consultation behaviour and its impact on both the public's health and health service use.
PMCID: PMC3338366  PMID: 22433072
Signs & symptoms; Community-based; Health care services; Primary care
8.  Ascertaining the size of the symptom iceberg in a UK-wide community-based survey 
The symptom iceberg describes the phenomenon that most symptoms are managed in the community without people seeking professional health care. The size of the iceberg for many symptoms is unknown, as is their association with personal characteristics, including history of a chronic disease.
To ascertain the size of the symptom iceberg in the UK.
Design of study
A UK-wide community-based postal survey.
Urban and rural communities across the UK.
A postal survey was sent to an age- and sex-stratified random sample of 2474 adults, aged 18–60 years, drawn from 20 practices around the UK. Questions were aimed at investigating adults' experiences of 25 different symptoms in the previous 2 weeks.
The number of symptoms experienced by one individual in the previous 2 weeks ranged from 0 to 22 (mean 3.66). Of the symptoms examined, the three most common were: feeling tired/run down; headaches; and joint pain. Univariate analysis found symptom prevalence to be significantly associated with a wide range of participant characteristics. However, after adjustment, many of these associations no longer remained significant for a number of the symptoms. Presence of a chronic condition, age, and employment status were the three factors most commonly associated with the 2-week prevalence of symptoms. Reported symptom characteristics (severity, duration, interference, and time off work) varied little by sex or age.
Symptoms in the UK community are common. Symptom prevalence was associated with a number of participant characteristics, although the extent of this association was less than has been reported in previous research. This study provides an important current baseline prevalence of 25 symptoms in the community for those who do, and do not, have a chronic condition.
PMCID: PMC3020067  PMID: 21401979
community-based; epidemiology; prevalence; signs and symptoms; symptom iceberg
10.  Five-Year Prognosis in an Incident Cohort of People Presenting with Acute Myocardial Infarction 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26573.
Following an AMI, it is important for patients and their physicians to appreciate the subsequent risk of death, and the potential benefits of invasive cardiac procedures and secondary preventive therapy. Studies, to-date, have focused largely on high-risk populations. We wished to determine the risk of death in a population-derived cohort of 2,887 patients after a first acute myocardial infarction (AMI).
Logistic regression and survival analysis were conducted to investigate the effect of different baseline characteristics, pharmacological therapies and revascularization procedures on coronary heart disease (CHD) and all-cause mortality outcomes.
Within five years 44.4% of patients died (27.1% short-term [<30 days] and 23.7% longer-term [≥30 days]). Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (Adjusted Hazards Ratio (AHR) = 0.49, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.26–0.93), β-blockers (AHR = 0.58, 95%CI 0.46–0.74) and statins (AHR = 0.60, 95%CI 0.47–0.77) were all associated with significant reductions in longer-term CHD-related mortality. However, not all patients received secondary preventive therapy (8.7%). Diabetes (AHR = 1.83, 95%CI 1.43–2.34), stroke (AHR = 1.73, 95%CI 1.35–2.22), heart failure (AHR = 1.69, 95%CI 1.28–2.22), smoking (AHR = 1.72, 95%CI 1.18–2.51) and obesity (>30 kg/m2; AHR = 1.39, 95%CI 1.01–1.90) increased the risk of longer-term mortality independent of other risk factors.
It is encouraging that the coronary procedure PTCA and pharmacological secondary prevention therapies were found to be strongly associated with an important reduced risk of subsequent death, although not all patients received these interventions. Smoking, being obese and having cardiovascular related disease at baseline were also associated with an increased likelihood of longer-term mortality, independent of other baseline characteristics. Thus, the provision of smoking cessation, advice on diet (for obese patients) and optimal treatment is likely to be crucial for reducing mortality in all patients after AMI.
PMCID: PMC3197664  PMID: 22028911
11.  Impact of lifestyle in middle-aged women on mortality: evidence from the Royal College of General Practitioners' Oral Contraception Study 
Although many individuals have multiple lifestyle risk factors, few studies have investigated the impact of lifestyle risk factor combinations among women.
To investigate the relationship between individual and combinations of lifestyle risk factors in middle-aged women with subsequent mortality, and to estimate the associated population attributable risks.
Design of study
Prospective cohort study.
Royal College of General Practitioners' (RCGP) Oral Contraception Study, UK.
In 1994–1995, women remaining under follow-up in the RCGP Oral Contraception Study were sent a lifestyle survey, from which modifiable risk factors were identified: pack-years smoked, physical inactivity, never drinking versus consuming at least 7 units of alcohol weekly, and being underweight, overweight, or obese. The cohort was followed to December 2006 or death. Population attributable risks were calculated.
Of 10 059 women studied, 896 died. Pack-years smoked (11–20 years: adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 1.82, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.46 to 2.27; >20 years: adjusted HR = 2.34, 95% CI = 2.00 to 2.74); never drinking alcohol (adjusted HR = 1.66, 95% CI = 1.34 to 2.05); being underweight (adjusted = HR 1.66, 95% CI = 1.03 to 2.68); and physical inactivity (<15 hours/week: adjusted HR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.46 to 2.04) were significantly associated with mortality compared with their respective reference group. Women with multiple lifestyle risk factors had higher mortality risks than those reporting one factor. The population attributable risk of the combination of smoking, physical inactivity, body mass index outside normal range, and alcohol (never drinking or excess intake) was 59% (95% CI = 31% to 78%).
Assuming a causal relationship between lifestyle and mortality, avoidance of four lifestyle risk factors would have prevented 60% of the deaths. The importance of avoiding smoking and undertaking physical inactivity during midlife should continue to be emphasised.
PMCID: PMC2913736  PMID: 20822689
epidemiology; follow-up studies; lifestyle; mortality; women
12.  Revisiting the symptom iceberg in today's primary care: results from a UK population survey 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:16.
Recent changes in UK primary care have increased the range of services and healthcare professionals available for advice. Furthermore, the UK government has promoted greater use of both self-care and the wider primary care team for managing symptoms indicative of self-limiting illness. We do not know how the public has been responding to these strategies. The aim of this study was to describe the current use of different management strategies in the UK for a range of symptoms and identify the demographic, socio-economic and symptom characteristics associated with these different approaches.
An age and sex stratified random sample of 8,000 adults (aged 18-60), drawn from twenty general practices across the UK, were sent a postal questionnaire. The questionnaire collected detailed information on 25 physical and psychological symptoms ranging from those usually indicative of minor illness to those which could be indicative of serious conditions. Information on symptom characteristics, actions taken to manage the symptoms and demographic/socio-economic details were also collected.
Just under half of all symptoms reported resulted in respondents doing nothing at all. Lay-care was used for 35% of symptoms and primary care health professionals were consulted for 12% of symptoms. OTC medicine use was the most common lay-care strategy (used for 25% of all symptom episodes). The GP was the most common health professional consulted (consulted for 8% of all symptom episodes) while use of other primary care health professionals was very small (each consulted for less than 2% of symptom episodes). The actions taken for individual symptoms varied substantially although some broad patterns emerged. Symptom characteristics (in particular severity, duration and interference with daily life) were more commonly associated with actions taken than demographic or socio-economic characteristics.
While the use of lay-care was widespread, use of the primary care team other than the GP was low. Further research is needed to examine the public's knowledge and opinions of different primary care services to investigate why certain services are not being used to inform the future development of primary care services in the UK.
PMCID: PMC3083353  PMID: 21473756
Signs and symptoms; Symptom iceberg; Community-based; Health care services; Primary care
13.  Authors’ reply 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2008;336(7635):60.
PMCID: PMC2190231
14.  Mortality among contraceptive pill users: cohort evidence from Royal College of General Practitioners’ Oral Contraception Study 
Objective To see if the mortality risk among women who have used oral contraceptives differs from that of never users.
Design Prospective cohort study started in 1968 with mortality data supplied by participating general practitioners, National Health Service central registries, or both.
Setting 1400 general practices throughout the United Kingdom.
Participants 46 112 women observed for up to 39 years, resulting in 378 006 woman years of observation among never users of oral contraception and 819 175 among ever users.
Main outcome measures Directly standardised adjusted relative risks between never and ever users for all cause and cause specific mortality.
Results 1747 deaths occurred in never users of oral contraception and 2864 in ever users. Compared with never users, ever users of oral contraception had a significantly lower rate of death from any cause (adjusted relative risk 0.88, 95% confidence interval 0.82 to 0.93). They also had significantly lower rates of death from all cancers; large bowel/rectum, uterine body, and ovarian cancer; main gynaecological cancers combined; all circulatory disease; ischaemic heart disease; and all other diseases. They had higher rates of violent deaths. No association between overall mortality and duration of oral contraceptive use was observed, although some disease specific relations were apparent. An increased relative risk of death from any cause between ever users and never users was observed in women aged under 45 years who had stopped using oral contraceptives 5-9 years previously but not in those with more distant use. The estimated absolute reduction in all cause mortality among ever users of oral contraception was 52 per 100 000 woman years.
Conclusion Oral contraception was not associated with an increased long term risk of death in this large UK cohort; indeed, a net benefit was apparent. The balance of risks and benefits, however, may vary globally, depending on patterns of oral contraception usage and background risk of disease.
PMCID: PMC2837145  PMID: 20223876
15.  Five year prognosis in patients with angina identified in primary care: incident cohort study 
Objective To ascertain the risk of acute myocardial infarction, invasive cardiac procedures, and mortality among patients with newly diagnosed angina over five years.
Design Incident cohort study of patients with primary care data linked to secondary care and mortality data.
Setting 40 primary care practices in Scotland.
Participants 1785 patients with a diagnosis of angina as their first manifestation of ischaemic heart disease, 1 January 1998 to 31 December 2001.
Main outcome measures Adjusted hazard ratios for acute myocardial infarction, coronary artery bypass grafting, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, death from ischaemic heart disease, and all cause mortality, adjusted for demographics, lifestyle risk factors, and comorbidity at cohort entry.
Results Mean age was 62.3 (SD 11.3). Male sex was associated with an increased risk of acute myocardial infarction (hazard ratio 2.01, 95% confidence interval 1.35 to 2.97), death from ischaemic heart disease (2.80, 1.73 to 4.53), and all cause mortality (1.82, 1.33 to 2.49). Increasing age was associated with acute myocardial infarction (1.04, 1.02 to 1.06, per year of age increase), death from ischaemic heart disease (1.09, 1.06 to 1.11, per year of age increase), and all cause mortality (1.09, 1.07 to 1.11, per year of age increase). Smoking was associated with subsequent acute myocardial infarction (1.94, 1.31 to 2.89), death from ischaemic heart disease (2.12, 1.32 to 3.39), and all cause mortality (2.11, 1.52 to 2.95). Obesity was associated with death from ischaemic heart disease (2.01, 1.17 to 3.45) and all cause mortality (2.20, 1.52 to 3.19). Previous stroke was associated with all cause mortality (1.78, 1.13 to 2.80) and chronic kidney disease with death from ischaemic heart disease (5.72, 1.74 to 18.79). Men were more likely than women to have coronary artery bypass grafting or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty after a diagnosis of angina; older people were less likely to receive percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty. Acute myocardial infarction after a diagnosis of angina was associated with an increased risk of death from ischaemic heart disease and all cause mortality (8.84 (5.31 to 14.71) and 4.23 (2.78 to 6.43), respectively). Neither of the invasive cardiac procedures significantly reduced the subsequent risk of all cause mortality.
Conclusions In this sample of people with incident angina from primary care, there were sex differences in survival and age and sex differences in the provision of revascularisation after a diagnosis. Acute myocardial infarction after a diagnosis of angina was strongly predictive of mortality. To minimise adverse outcomes, optimal preventive treatments should be used in patients with angina.
PMCID: PMC2722695  PMID: 19661139
16.  Are different groups of patients with stroke more likely to be excluded from the new UK general medical services contract? A cross-sectional retrospective analysis of a large primary care population 
BMC Family Practice  2007;8:56.
In April 2004, an incentive based contract was introduced to UK primary care. An important element of the new contract is the ability to exclude individuals from quality indicators for a variety of reasons (known as 'exception reporting'). Exception of patients with stroke or TIA from the recording and achievement of quality indicators may have important consequences in terms of stroke recurrence and mortality.
A cross-sectional retrospective analysis of anonymised patient data was performed using 312 Scottish primary care practices.
Patients recorded as unsuitable for inclusion in the contract were more likely to be female (odds ratio (OR) 1.51, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.36–1.68), older (>75 years:OR 3.15, 95%CI 2.69–3.69), and have dementia (OR 4.40, 95%CI 3.57–5.43) when compared to those patients without such a code. Patients were less likely to be older (>75 years:OR 0.70, 95%CI 0.56–0.87) and were more likely to be from the most deprived areas of Scotland (Quintile 5: OR 2.02, 95%CI 1.50–2.70) if they refused to attend for review or did not reply to letters asking for attendance at primary care clinics. Patients with multiple co-morbidities were more likely to have exclusions for achieving diagnostic clinical targets such as cholesterol control (3 or more co-morbidities: OR 3.37, 95%CI 2.50–4.50).
Scottish practices have appeared to use exception reporting appropriately by excluding patients who are older or have dementia. However, younger or more socio-economically deprived patients were more likely to be recorded as having refused to attend for review or not replying to letters asking for attendance at primary care clinics. It is important for primary care practices to identify and monitor these individuals so that all patients fully benefit from the implementation of an incentive based contract and receive appropriate clinical care to prevent stroke recurrence, further disability and mortality.
PMCID: PMC2048961  PMID: 17900351
17.  Cancer risk among users of oral contraceptives: cohort data from the Royal College of General Practitioner's oral contraception study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2007;335(7621):651.
Objective To examine the absolute risks or benefits on cancer associated with oral contraception, using incident data.
Design Inception cohort study.
Setting Royal College of General Practitioners' oral contraception study.
Participants Directly standardised data from the Royal College of General Practitioners' oral contraception study.
Main outcome measures Adjusted relative risks between never and ever users of oral contraceptives for different types of cancer, main gynaecological cancers combined, and any cancer. Standardisation variables were age, smoking, parity, social class, and (for the general practitioner observation dataset) hormone replacement therapy. Subgroup analyses examined whether the relative risks changed with user characteristics, duration of oral contraception usage, and time since last use of oral contraception.
Results The main dataset contained about 339 000 woman years of observation for never users and 744 000 woman years for ever users. Compared with never users ever users had statistically significant lower rates of cancers of the large bowel or rectum, uterine body, and ovaries, tumours of unknown site, and other malignancies; main gynaecological cancers combined; and any cancer. The relative risk for any cancer in the smaller general practitioner observation dataset was not significantly reduced. Statistically significant trends of increasing risk of cervical and central nervous system or pituitary cancer, and decreasing risk of uterine body and ovarian malignancies, were seen with increasing duration of oral contraceptive use. Reduced relative risk estimates were observed for ovarian and uterine body cancer many years after stopping oral contraception, although some were not statistically significant. The estimated absolute rate reduction of any cancer among ever users was 45 or 10 per 100 000 woman years, depending on whether the main or general practitioner observation dataset was used.
Conclusion In this UK cohort, oral contraception was not associated with an overall increased risk of cancer; indeed it may even produce a net public health gain. The balance of cancer risks and benefits, however, may vary internationally, depending on patterns of oral contraception usage and the incidence of different cancers.
PMCID: PMC1995533  PMID: 17855280
18.  Effect of multivitamin and multimineral supplementation on cognitive function in men and women aged 65 years and over: a randomised controlled trial 
Nutrition Journal  2007;6:10.
Observational studies have frequently reported an association between cognitive function and nutrition in later life but randomised trials of B vitamins and antioxidant supplements have mostly found no beneficial effect. We examined the effect of daily supplementation with 11 vitamins and 5 minerals on cognitive function in older adults to assess the possibility that this could help to prevent cognitive decline.
The study was carried out as part of a randomised double blind placebo controlled trial of micronutrient supplementation based in six primary care health centres in North East Scotland. 910 men and women aged 65 years and over living in the community were recruited and randomised: 456 to active treatment and 454 to placebo. The active treatment consisted of a single tablet containing eleven vitamins and five minerals in amounts ranging from 50–210 % of the UK Reference Nutrient Intake or matching placebo tablet taken daily for 12 months. Digit span forward and verbal fluency tests, which assess immediate memory and executive functioning respectively, were conducted at the start and end of the intervention period. Risk of micronutrient deficiency at baseline was assessed by a simple risk questionnaire.
For digit span forward there was no evidence of an effect of supplements in all participants or in sub-groups defined by age or risk of deficiency. For verbal fluency there was no evidence of a beneficial effect in the whole study population but there was weak evidence for a beneficial effect of supplementation in the two pre-specified subgroups: in those aged 75 years and over (n 290; mean difference between supplemented and placebo groups 2.8 (95% CI -0.6, 6.2) units) and in those at increased risk of micronutrient deficiency assessed by the risk questionnaire (n 260; mean difference between supplemented and placebo groups 2.5 (95% CI -1.0, 6.1) units).
The results provide no evidence for a beneficial effect of daily multivitamin and multimineral supplements on these domains of cognitive function in community-living people over 65 years. However, the possibility of beneficial effects in older people and those at greater risk of nutritional deficiency deserves further attention.
PMCID: PMC1872030  PMID: 17474991
19.  Symptom experience and subsequent mortality: results from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 study 
Associations between symptom experience and mortality have rarely been investigated. One study has suggested that the number of symptoms people experience may be an important predictor of mortality. This novel and potentially important finding may have important implications but needs to be tested in other cohorts.
858 people aged around 58 years were interviewed by nurses in 1990/1 as part of the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study. They were asked about the presence of symptoms in the last month from a checklist of 33 symptoms. Measures of morbidity included symptom type (respiratory, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, mental health, neurological, systemic) and symptom summary measures looking at the number and impact of symptoms (total number; number participants tended to have; number participants did not tend to have; number which restricted usual activities; number which led to GP consultation). Hazard ratios for thirteen-year all-cause mortality were calculated for symptom types, symptom summary measures, and self-assessed health with and without adjustment.
On unadjusted analysis, and after adjusting for gender, socio-economic status and smoking, mortality was elevated in individuals reporting respiratory, systemic and mental health symptoms. After additional adjustment for chronic conditions and self-assessed health, only the association between mental health symptoms and mortality remained significant. On unadjusted analysis, and after adjusting for gender, socio-economic status and smoking, mortality was elevated in individuals with many (≥ 6) symptoms in four of the symptom summary measures examined. These relationships were no longer significant after additional adjustment for chronic conditions and self-assessed health. A clear trend of increasing mortality as self-assessed health became poorer was observed. This pattern remained statistically significant after adjustment for gender, socio-economic status, smoking, chronic conditions and the total number of symptoms experienced.
Symptoms often thought of as minor may have important consequences later in life especially for those reporting mental health-related symptoms or those experiencing many symptoms. In this study however, self-assessed health appeared to be a better predictor of mortality than the type or number of symptoms experienced, even when the tendency to have and impact of the symptoms were taken into account.
PMCID: PMC1702541  PMID: 17156478
20.  Temporal change in the prevalence of respiratory symptoms and obstructive airways disease 1993–2001 
There has been little available information regarding secular changes in the prevalence of respiratory symptoms since the mid-1990s.
To examine changes in the prevalence of respiratory symptoms for 1993–2001.
Design of study
A series of postal questionnaire surveys.
Two general practice populations, including all age groups.
Four postal respiratory questionnaire surveys were conducted between 1993 and 2001. Subjects who replied to two or more surveys (8058 adults and 2350 children) were included in the main analyses. Validated scoring systems were used to define obstructive airways disease in adults and asthma in children.
Over the 8-year observation period there were increases among adults in the crude prevalence of wheeze, being woken by cough, receipt of current asthma medication, and of obstructive airways disease, compared with decreases in children for wheeze, night cough, asthma attacks, and asthma. For adults, adjusted odds ratios per year of secular increase were 1.03 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.02 to 1.03) for wheeze, 1.03 (95% CI = 1.02 to 1.03) for being woken by cough, 1.03 (95% CI = 1.02 to 1.04) for asthma medication, and 1.02 (95% CI = 1.01 to 1.03) for obstructive airways disease. These increases were greater in those aged over 44 years, in males, and in those without a family history of asthma or a history of hayfever or eczema. Corresponding decreases for children were 0.94 (95% CI = 0.92 to 0.97) for wheeze, 0.93 (95% CI = 0.91 to 0.96) for night cough, 0.93 (95% CI = 0.90 to 0.95) for asthma attacks and 0.98 (95% CI = 0.95 to 1.00) for asthma.
The increases found in adults are more likely to be due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than asthma. This is supported by the decreases in symptom and asthma prevalence in children.
PMCID: PMC1463220  PMID: 16105367
asthma; pulmonary disease, chronic obstructive; signs and symptoms, respiratory; trends
21.  Experiences and perceptions of people with headache: a qualitative study 
BMC Family Practice  2006;7:27.
Few qualitative studies of headache have been conducted and as a result we have little in-depth understanding of the experiences and perceptions of people with headache. The aim of this paper was to explore the perceptions and experiences of individuals with headache and their experiences of associated healthcare and treatment.
A qualitative study of individuals with headache, sampled from a population-based study of chronic pain was conducted in the North-East of Scotland, UK. Seventeen semi-structured interviews were conducted with adults aged 65 or less. Interviews were analysed using the Framework approach utilising thematic analysis.
Almost every participant reported that they were unable to function fully as a result of the nature and unpredictability of their headaches and this had caused disruption to their work, family life and social activities. Many also reported a negative impact on mood including feeling depressed, aggressive or embarrassed. Most participants had formed their own ideas about different aspects of their headache and several had searched for, or were seeking, increased understanding of their headache from a variety of sources. Many participants reported that their headaches caused them constant worry and anguish, and they were concerned that there was a serious underlying cause. A variety of methods were being used to manage headaches including conventional medication, complementary therapies and self-developed management techniques. Problems associated with all of these management strategies emerged.
Headache has wide-ranging adverse effects on individuals and is often accompanied by considerable worry. The development of new interventions or educational strategies aimed at reducing the burden of the disorder and associated anxiety are needed.
PMCID: PMC1523257  PMID: 16670013
22.  Effect of multivitamin and multimineral supplements on morbidity from infections in older people (MAVIS trial): pragmatic, randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trial 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2005;331(7512):324-329.
Objective To examine whether supplementation with multivitamins and multiminerals influences self reported days of infection, use of health services, and quality of life in people aged 65 or over.
Design Randomised, placebo controlled trial, with blinding of participants, outcome assessors, and investigators.
Setting Communities associated with six general practices in Grampian, Scotland.
Participants 910 men and women aged 65 or over who did not take vitamins or minerals.
Interventions Daily multivitamin and multimineral supplementation or placebo for one year.
Main outcome measures Primary outcomes were contacts with primary care for infections, self reported days of infection, and quality of life. Secondary outcomes included antibiotic prescriptions, hospital admissions, adverse events, and compliance.
Results Supplementation did not significantly affect contacts with primary care and days of infection per person (incidence rate ratio 0.96, 95% confidence interval 0.78 to 1.19 and 1.07, 0.90 to 1.27). Quality of life was not affected by supplementation. No statistically significant findings were found for secondary outcomes or subgroups.
Conclusion Routine multivitamin and multimineral supplementation of older people living at home does not affect self reported infection related morbidity.
Trial registration ISRCTN: 66376460.
PMCID: PMC1183131  PMID: 16081445
23.  Chronic pain and health status: how do those not using healthcare services fare? 
Relatively little is known about the clinical importance of symptoms not presented to healthcare services. Using data from a community survey we examined the health status among those with chronic pain who reported using or not using healthcare services. Individuals with chronic pain who had used healthcare services in the previous year had poorer health than symptomatic responders who had not used services, irrespective of the severity of chronic pain. The findings suggest that there is little point in trying to detect and treat individuals not currently presenting to healthcare services with their pain.
PMCID: PMC1324844  PMID: 15296563
health services; health services research; health status indicators; pain; signs and symptoms
24.  Long term effects of hysterectomy on mortality: nested cohort study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2005;330(7506):1482.
Objectives To investigate the long term risk (mean > 20 years) of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in women who had or had not had a hysterectomy.
Design Nested cohort study.
Setting Royal College of General Practitioners' oral contraception study.
Participants 7410 women (3705 flagged at the NHS central registries for cancer and death who had a hysterectomy during the oral contraception study and 3705 who were flagged but did not have the operation).
Main outcome measures Mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Results 623 (8.4%) women had died by the end of follow-up (308 in the hysterectomy group and 315 in the non-hysterectomy group). Older women who had had a hysterectomy had a 6% reduced risk of death compared with women of a similar age who did not have the operation (adjusted hazard ratio 0.94, 95% confidence interval 0.75 to 1.18). Compared with young women who did not have a hysterectomy those who were younger at hysterectomy had an adjusted hazard ratio for all cause mortality of 0.82 (0.65 to 1.03). Hysterectomy was not associated with a significantly altered risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease or cancer regardless of age.
Conclusion Hysterectomy did not increase the risk of death in the medium to long term.
PMCID: PMC558457  PMID: 15930026
25.  Increased mortality among women with Rose angina who have not presented with ischaemic heart disease. 
BACKGROUND: Little is known about the clinical importance of disease that is not presented to healthcare services. AIM: To determine the 5-year mortality among those with angina symptoms, known or not known by their general practitioner (GP) to have ischaemic heart disease (IHD). DESIGN: A prospective cohort study. SETTING: The study was conducted in the United Kingdom as part of the Royal College of General Practitioners' Oral Contraception Study. METHOD: In 1994-1995 women (n = 11,797) still under GP observation were sent a questionnaire that inquired about their smoking habits, other lifestyle issues, general health, and selected symptoms (including chest pain, assessed using the Rose angina questionnaire). The main outcome measure was the chances (odds) of dying during the next 5 years, among those with and without exertional chest pain, Rose angina or Rose myocardial infarction (MI), stratified by documented history of IHD. RESULTS: Overall, the lifetime prevalence of any exertional chest pain was 10.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 9.5 to 10.8); grade I Rose angina was 6.1% (95% CI = 5.6 to 6.6); grade II Rose angina was 1.3% (95% CI = 1.1 to 1.6); and Rose MI was 4.4% (95% CI = 4.0 to 4.9). The prevalence of each condition tended to increase with age, social class, parity, body mass index, and documented history of IHD. The proportion of women documented as having IHD was 23% among those with any exertional chest pain, 21.7% for grade I Rose angina, 37.7% for grade II Rose angina, and 31.4% for Rose MI. Compared to women without Rose angina, significantly higher odds ratios for all-cause mortality were observed among women with grade I Rose angina and no documented history of IHD (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.71, 95% CI = 1.05 to 2.79); those with grade II Rose angina and documented IHD (AOR = 3.94, 95% CI = 1.58 to 9.83); and women with grade II Rose angina and no documented history of IHD (AOR = 3.35, 95% CI = 1.47 to 7.62). CONCLUSIONS: Women with angina symptoms that have not been documented by their GP appear to have an increased risk of future mortality. Research is needed to determine the best way of identifying and managing these individuals.
PMCID: PMC1314711  PMID: 14601354

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