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Public say prevention is single most important area for research into age-related ill-health

Medical Research Council website

25 July 2006

Preventing ill-health is the public’s single most important area for research into ageing, an Ipsos MORI study published today has found. More than twice as many study participants chose research into prevention over research into cure.  Research focused on managing conditions and how best to support and care for people who have ill health came second to prevention  ahead of cure. 

The study also asked the public about research funding decisions. The public identified improving quality of life as a funding priority, both for the effects of ageing and how to cope with age-related ill-health.  The question asked the public to list what they felt were the two or three most important factors for allocating funds. Improving quality of life was the most popular, followed by prevention of future heath problems, the need to look for cures, and then consideration of the number of people who will benefit from the research.  

Overall, nine out of ten of the c. 2,000 UK respondents agreed that research into ageing was vital to help understand how we can maximise quality of life for people as they grow older.

Saturday workshop discussions held as part of the study (among 50 participants) showed that people tend to view ageing negatively and associate it with deteriorating mental and physical health rather than as part of a natural life process.  

The Ipsos MORI study was conducted for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council on behalf of Research Councils UK. The results will be used to help inform the Councils’ strategic decision-making, and will be discussed with other Research Councils including those that fund research into the social and economic aspects of ageing and managing the environment for older people. The Councils will also consider whether current public involvement in their decision-making meets public demand as identified in this study.

In the workshop discussions, improving quality of life and benefit for the greatest number of people were key criteria participants identified as most relevant to research fund allocation. This reflected the findings of the opinion poll. Other key factors identified in the workshops were, value for money, an element of public consultation and scientific excellence. These factors are broadly similar to the criteria already used by research councils to allocate funds.

BBSRC Chief Executive Julia Goodfellow said: ‘In order to help prevent diseases and conditions associated with ageing we need to understand the basic biology of how we age. We are very interested that the public view prevention as so important. We will consider the outputs of this study as we develop our strategy for supporting research that can help contribute to a healthier old age.’
The MRC Chief Executive Colin Blakemore said: 'Throughout the developed world there is an increasingly elderly population. This has been identified as a top priority by the Treasury as longer life expectancy creates the challenge of ill-health associated with old age. The results of this public consultation will help us to set priorities for funding for medical research into age-related conditions. The future challenge will be to translate research results into benefits for the ageing population.’

A summary of the results of the report ‘Public Consultation on Ageing: Research into Public Attitudes Towards BBSRC- and MRC-Funded Research on Ageing’ can be downloaded from the Ipsos MORI website: www.ipsos-mori.com

The report will be discussed at an open meeting on July 25. The report will also feature as part of the MRC open Council meeting on July 26. The debate will be led by the question: What can science do to help our ageing population?


Notes to editors

Research was carried out amongst the general public by the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute. Three public workshops were held on 11, 18, 25 March in Sutton, Stirling and Cardiff, to gather qualitative information. More than 50 members of the public aged between 16 – 82 years old took part.

Quantitative information was generated from a representative quota sample via in-home, face-to-face interviews with 2,162 people aged 15+ in 212 sampling points across the UK. The survey was conducted from 25-30 May 2006, with data weighted to the known profile of the UK population.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

About MRC

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is funded by the UK tax-payer. It aims to improve human health. The research it supports and the scientists it trains meet the needs of the health services, the pharmaceutical and other health-related industries and universities. The MRC has funded work which has led to some of the most significant discoveries and achievements in medicine in the UK. http://www.mrc.ac.uk

External contact

MRC Press Office

tel: 020 7637 6011

Michele Corrado, Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute

Caroline Simpson, Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute

tel: 0207 347 3000


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382