MIDSPAN is the name used for the large occupational and general population health surveys, based in the west of Scotland, which began in the 1960s and involved nearly 30,000 people.
The use of large scale epidemiological studies as a tool for public health research was pioneered in Scotland by Victor Hawthorne. The studies largely centred around people in middle age (45-64 years). Similar questionnaire and measurement instruments were used in all of the original cohort studies. There were three original studies: two (Main & Collaborative Studies) based mainly in factories and other workplaces from Greenock in the west of Scotland to Fife in the east; the 3rd, a general population study, was centred in the towns of Renfrew and Paisley, situated to the west of Glasgow.
Unusually for studies carried out in the 1960s and 70s, all the study populations included women. In the Renfrew/Paisley Study over 8000 women took part making it unique in the UK in providing a general population sample of UK women with long-term follow up.
An interesting feature of the Renfrew/Paisley Study was the inclusion of over 4000 married couples, which paved the way for a later study called the MIDSPAN Family Study. This recent study, carried out in 1996, involved 1040 sons and 1298 daughters aged 30-59 from 1477 families.
The high response rate overall means that the findings from the Midspan Studies are reasonably representative of populations living and working in areas characterised by high rates of socio-economic deprivation and early mortality.
Today, with over 40 years of follow up, the data represent an invaluable tool for epidemiological, medical and sociological research.