Professor Kivimäki is an epidemiologist with special interests in risk factors of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and dementia in old age. He is the Principal Investigator of the IPD-Work consortium of 17 European cohort studies.
Over the past decade, Professor Kivimäki has had a number of roles, including research professor at the Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland, and professor of occupational health at the Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki. He is now professor of social epidemiology in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London and professor of epidemiology in Clinicum, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland.
Kivimäki’s key area of research interest in cardiometabolic diseases and depression is now increasingly focusing on the ageing process, with the Whitehall participants now at 65 to 85 years of age. Examples of research include the importance of midlife vascular factors on old-age outcomes, such as dementia, late-onset depression, and physical functioning. Measurements of biological, behavioural, and psychological factors from early midlife onwards provide us with a great opportunity to identify key drivers of old-age health and functioning.
Currently, Professor Kivimäki is leading a Nordforsk funded project on Psychosocial work environment and healthy ageing. The results of this project will characterize more precisely than has previously been possible the role of work-related psychosocial factors as determinants of healthy ageing. Such information is important for evidence-based policies aimed at improving public health, reducing health inequalities, and extending work careers.
What do you think are the most exciting present and future developments in your field of aging research?
In ageing research, big data approaches, such as individual-participant meta-analyses from multiple cohort studies are increasingly important in testing new hypotheses. Such collaborative investigations allow detection of both large and small effects reliably, leading to accumulation of reproducible evidence on the determinants of healthy ageing.
It is important that hypothesis testing with mega studies is complemented by smaller, data-intensive studies aimed at the generation of new hypotheses. I believe that discoveries will come from high-resolution longitudinal data sets from across the life course, combined with novel biotechnology, such as wearable assessment techniques that allow online biomonitoring.
24NKG is a multidisciplinary conference where the participants have the opportunity to broaden their perspective beyond the themes of their own immediate research areas. How would you like to motivate participants from medicine or basic biologists to attend your lecture?
The use of collaborative mega-studies in the field of genetics represents one of the most successful recent strategic advances in biomedical research. This approach has now been adopted to other fields, including epidemiological research on healthy ageing. Big data approaches have accelerated the accumulation of reproducible evidence. My keynote discusses the most recent findings from mega studies in the field of stress and health-related behaviours as determinants of ageing outcomes. Some of the new findings correct common misconceptions regarding the effects of psychosocial and lifestyle factors on healthy ageing.
In your mind, how can the Nordic Congress contribute to aging research in general? What do you expect from 24NKG?
I expect to learn the most recent research in the field of gerontology and geriatrics (before it appears in publications) and to meet many leading scientists in the field.