Healthy Ageing Program

Research Overview

Our Cohorts

  1. Women's Healthy Ageing Project (n = 2,001).

    The Women's Healthy Ageing Project (WHAP) commenced in 1990 as a cohort study of over 2000 women, which examined Australian women's health from midlife (then aged 45-55 years) before the menopausal transition. In 1992 the project commenced the longitudinal follow up of over 400 women from the original cohort. The WHAP continues to follow up these women, who are now all aged over 70 years.

    The WHAP aims to improve overall health and wellbeing through addressing the lack of awareness of modifiable risk in women, and improving our understanding of risk factors and the accrual of disease over time. The WHAP is a unique Australian study with over 25 years of longitudinal prospective follow up, with data including biomarkers, clinical assessments, lifestyle, quality of life, and physical measures.

    The key areas:

    • Bone: balance & strength, X-rays, bone density
    • Brain: brain imaging, executive function, memory, full neurocognitive tests
    • Blood: biomarker, hormonal, inflammatory, genetic
    • Medical: medications, chronic illness, common illness, family illness
    • Quality of Life: sexuality, self-rated health, quality of life, life satisfaction
    • Socio-demographic: education & employment, marital status, carer load, partner employment, household composition
    • Lifestyle: diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption & history, smoking history
    • Psychological: mood, depression, wellbeing & quality of life; self-rated health, stress
    • Physical Measures: BMI, blood pressure, head circumference, abdominal fat
  2. Healthy Ageing Project (n = 22,000).

    The Healthy Ageing Project is an online health survey of Australians, which commenced in 2014. Data on self-reported health, lifestyle, mood, and vascular risk factors was collected from male and female participants aged 18 years and over.

  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Clinical Trials Research

In collaboration with the Centre for Neuroscience at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Healthy Ageing Program runs clinical trials designed to improve neurological health and quality of life in ageing.


Research Leaders

Public Health and Bionformatics

  • Professor Danny Liew
  • Dr Melissa Coulson
  • Dr Mark Tacey
  • Dr Chuhui Li
  • Dr Steven Simpson
  • Sue Philips
  • Alexandra Gorelik
  • Monique Stagnitti


  • Professor Henry Burger
  • Dr Charlene Chua
  • Dr Joanne Ryan
  • Mario Termine
  • Olivia Siblin


The Healthy Ageing Program encourages collaboration, and in particular cross-cultural studies and combined cohort studies that leverage synergistic datasets.  The research program has nurtured a growing cohort of alumni from undergraduate students to higher degree students, scientists and health professionals completing postgraduate research training.

The dataset is open for analysis towards higher degree study. Our dataset is available as the "Well Women's Longitudinal Study" via application to BioGrid Australia Limited. BioGrid Australia is a leading data sharing organisation, which provides a secure infrastructure that advances health research by linking participant-level, privacy-protected and ethically approved, clinical, biospecimen, genetic and imaging data among a wide network of health collaborators.

Key international collaborators:

  • International guidelines for women's health: Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN; Harlow SD, Crawford S, Dennerstein L, Burger HG, Mitchell ES, Sowers MF, the ReSTAGE Collaboration. Recommendations from a multi-study evaluation of proposed criteria for staging reproductive aging. Climacteric 2007. 10(2), p. 112-119.)
  • Worldwide Alzheimers  Disease Initiative: The cognitive dataset is also included in the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network.
  • Cross-cultural programs:
    1. Japan - Professor Noboru Fujise and Professor Manabu Ikeda (Campbell KE,  Dennerstein L, Tacey M, Fujise N, Ikeda M, Szoeke C. A comparison of Geriatric Depression Scale scores in older Australian and Japanese women. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci, 2016: p. 1-9.);
    2. Hong Kong - Sao Po Centre on Aging;
    3. United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy (Dennerstein L, Lehert P, Koochaki PE, Graziottin A, Leiblum S, Alexander JL. A symptomatic approach to understanding women's health experiences: a cross-cultural comparison of women aged 20 to 70 years. Menopause 2007. 14(4), p. 688-96.);
    4. France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain, UK, Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Thailand, Japan, Korea and Australia (Dennerstein L, Lehert P, Heinemann K. Global epidemiological study of variation of premenstrual symptoms with age and sociodemographic factors. Menopause Int 2011. 17(3), p. 96-101; Dennerstein L, Lehert P, Heinemann K. Global study of women's experiences of premenstrual symptoms and their effects on daily life. Menopause Int 2011. 17(3): p. 88-95.);
    5. Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (Dennerstein L, Lehert P. Women's sexual functioning, lifestyle, mid-age, and menopause in 12 European countries. Menopause 2004. 11(6 Pt 2): p. 778-85.).
  • Healthy Ageing: Institute for Health and Ageing (IHA), Australian Catholic University.


Funding of the Women's Healthy Ageing Project cohort follow-up has been predominantly funded by sequential competitive peer-reviewed National- and State-based health departments starting with:

  • Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) Collaborative Research Program Grant
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (Grants 547600, 1032350 & 1062133).

Biomarker freezers funding (which contain all stored samples):

  • The Ian Potter Foundation
  • The Smorgon Family Trust

Disease-specific support:

  • Bone mineral density testing - Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals Inc., 1993, 1996, 1998
  • Hand and knee x-rays - Shepherd Foundation, 2002/03  (follow up X-rays pending from Scobie and Claire Mackinnon award)
  • Assays on stored 2002/03 samples, including CTX-II assays - Collier Foundation,  2008)
  • Vitamin D assays - Scobie and Claire Mackinnon, 2008
  • DHEAS assay - Australian Menopause Society, 2008
  • Lipid profile biomarkers from stored 2002/03 samples - J.O. & J.R. Wicking Trust, 2012/13
  • Neuropsychiatric evaluations and hormone biomarkers - Alzheimer’s Association (IIRG-01-2684), 2002/03; Ramiciotti Foundation 2012/13; Alzheimer’s Association (NIA320312) and the Brain Foundation, 2014/15
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - Alzheimer’s Association (IIRG-01-2684), 2002/03;  Mason Foundation, 2014/15
  • Cerebral Positron Emission Tomography (PET) amyloid images - Bayer HealthCare, 2012/13

Research Outcomes

Our research in the media

Research Publications

  • Nichols, E., Szoeke, C. E., Vollset, S. E., Abbasi, N., Abd-Allah, F., Abdela, J., ... & Awasthi, A. (2019). Global, regional, and national burden of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet Neurology18(1), 88-106. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(18)30403-4
  • GBD 2016 Neurology Collaborators. (2019). Global, regional, and national burden of neurological disorders, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(18)30499-X
  • Szoeke, C., Coulson, M., Campbell, S., & Dennerstein, L. (2016). Cohort profile: Women’s Healthy Ageing Project (WHAP)-a longitudinal prospective study of Australian women since 1990. Women's midlife health2(1), 5. doi:
  • Szoeke, C., Lehert, P., Henderson, V. W., Dennerstein, L., Desmond, P., & Campbell, S. (2016). Predictive factors for verbal memory performance over decades of aging: data from the Women's healthy ageing project. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry24(10), 857-867. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2016.05.008
  • Campbell, K. E., Dennerstein, L., Tacey, M., Fujise, N., Ikeda, M., & Szoeke, C. (2017). A comparison of geriatric depression scale scores in older Australian and Japanese women. Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences26(1), 70-78. doi: 10.1017/S2045796015001110.
  • Burn, K., Dennerstein, L., Browning, C., & Szoeke, C. (2016). Patterns of social engagement in the transition to later life. Maturitas88, 90-95. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2016.03.016
  • Bovalino, S., Charleson, G., & Szoeke, C. (2016). The impact of red and processed meat consumption on cardiovascular disease risk in women. Nutrition32(3), 349-354. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2015.09.015.
  • Burn, K., & Szoeke, C. (2015). Grandparenting predicts late-life cognition: Results from the Women's Healthy Ageing Project. Maturitas81(2), 317-322. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.03.013.
  • Burn, K., & Szoeke, C. (2015). Is grandparenting a form of social engagement that benefits cognition in ageing?. Maturitas80(2), 122-125. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2014.10.017.
  • Chua, C. K., Henderson, V. W., Dennerstein, L., Ames, D., & Szoeke, C. (2014). Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and cognition in midlife, post-menopausal women. Neurobiology of aging35(7), 1654-1655. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2014.01.140.
  • Lonnèe‐Hoffmann, R. A., Dennerstein, L., Lehert, P., & Szoeke, C. (2014). Sexual Function in the Late Postmenopause: A Decade of Follow‐Up in a Population‐Based Cohort of Australian Women. The journal of sexual medicine11(8), 2029-2038. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12590.
  • Steinbach, M., Szoeke, C., & Dennerstein, L. (2014). Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in healthy ageing women from the 20 year Women's Healthy Ageing Project (WHAP). Australasian Journal on Ageing. 33. 63-63. doi: 10.1111/ajag.12179.
  • McCluskey, G. E., Szoeke, C., & Yates, P. (2014). Subjective memory complaints ten years prior have no relationship with brain amyloid: data from the women’s healthy ageing project. Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association10(4), P365-P366. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2014.05.129.
  • Szoeke, C. E., Robertson, J. S., Rowe, C. C., Yates, P., Campbell, K., Masters, C. L., ... & Desmond, P. (2013). The Women's Healthy Ageing Project: Fertile ground for investigation of healthy participants ‘at risk’for dementia. International Review of Psychiatry25(6), 726-737. doi: 10.3109/09540261.2013.873394.
  • Chen, K., Lowndes, G., Ames, D., & Szoeke, C. (2012). The influence of midlife cholesterol on late-life cognition: The Women's Healthy Ageing Project (WHAP). Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association8(4), P596. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2012.05.2075.
  • Szoeke, C. E., Cicuttini, F. M., Guthrie, J. R., & Dennerstein, L. (2008). The relationship of reports of aches and joint pains to the menopausal transition: a longitudinal study. Climacteric11(1), 55-62. doi: 10.1080/13697130701746006
  • Szoeke, C. E., Cicuttini, F. M., Guthrie, J. R., Clark, M. S., & Dennerstein, L. (2006). Factors affecting the prevalence of osteoarthritis in healthy middle-aged women: data from the longitudinal Melbourne Women's Midlife Health Project. Bone39(5), 1149-1155. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2006.05.016.
  • Dennerstein, L., Guthrie, J. R., Clark, M., Lehert, P., & Henderson, V. W. (2004). A population-based study of depressed mood in middle-aged, Australian-born women. Menopause11(5), 563-568. doi: 10.1097/01.GME.0000113844.74462.F6
  • Guthrie, J. R., Dennerstein, L., Taffe, J. R., Lehert, P., & Burger, H. G. (2004). The menopausal transition: a 9-year prospective population-based study. The Melbourne Women's Midlife Health Project. Climacteric7(4), 375-389. doi: 10.1080/13697130400012163
  • Dennerstein, L., Lehert, P., Dudley, E., & Guthrie, J. (2001). Factors contributing to positive mood during the menopausal transition. The Journal of nervous and mental disease189(2), 84-89.
  • Mazza, D., Dennerstein, L., Garamszegi, C. V., & Dudley, E. C. (2001). The physical, sexual and emotional violence history of middle‐aged women: A community‐based prevalence study. Medical journal of Australia175(4), 199-201. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2001.tb143095.x
  • Dennerstein, L., Dudley, E. C., Hopper, J. L., Guthrie, J. R., & Burger, H. G. (2000). A prospective population-based study of menopausal symptoms. Obstetrics & Gynecology96(3), 351-358. doi: 10.1016/S0029-7844(00)00930-3
  • Guthrie, J. R., Dennerstein, L., & Dudley, E. C. (1999). Weight gain and the menopause: a 5-year prospective study. Climacteric2(3), 205-211. doi: 10.3109/13697139909038063
  • Guthrie, J. R., Ebeling, P. R., Hopper, J. L., Barrett-Connor, E., Dennerstein, L., Dudley, E. C., ... & Wark, J. D. (1998). A prospective study of bone loss in menopausal Australian-born women. Osteoporosis International8(3), 282-290. doi: 10.1007/s001980050066
  • Dennerstein, L., Smith, A. M., Morse, C., Burger, H., Green, A., Hopper, J., & Ryan, M. (1993). Menopausal symptoms in Australian women. Medical journal of Australia159(4), 232-236. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1993.tb137821.x