Personal Views

The other side of the fence

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 22 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1385
  1. Anthea Tinker, professor of social gerontology
  1. London

    “I'm just going to ask you a few questions,” said the young interviewer in a kindly tone. “What is the name of this town?” My goodness, I thought, any minute now I'm going to be asked to name the prime minister. Panic set in as I realised that part of this was a memory test. Yet these and similar questions are ones which colleagues and I regularly ask researchers to put to other people.

    Not many of the people I question on aspects of aging will face such a battery of tests as I did, but it is salutary for once to be on the other side of the fence. I was taking part in the Whitehall Study, which is a longitudinal study begun in 1985 of over 10 000 civil servants and ex-civil servants. Each time we are interviewed we undergo physical and mental tests.

    The causes of coronary heart disease was the original emphasis of the research. The study was also designed to shed light on other areas, such as the effects on health of changes at work and how people managed the change from work to retirement. …

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