I haven’t done any book reviews on my blog so far, which seems incredibly silly given my love of reading! I just finished a wonderful book called The Life Project by Helen Pearson. I received the book as a gift from mentors who know me very well; they certainly did their research and knew exactly what to pick! The book was published in 2016 and follows the rise of longitudinal studies in the U.K. (and more broadly). I have always been interested in longitudinal research, with a particular emphasis on early childhood experiences and how those experiences shape wellbeing across the lifespan so this book was like catnip for me.
While it is non-fiction, it is written in an engaging, novel-like way that reminds me or Erik Larson (author of Devil in the White City) or Alison Weir. Pearson is clear and concise, weaving together the tales of the numerous cohort studies in the U.K. through the 20th century and into modern times. It quickly becomes clear how much has changed over the decades–from birthing habits to women in the workplace. At the same time, Pearson presents the ominous conclusion that there are many areas that are not improving.
On a lighter note, the book beautifully captures the personalities and politics that impact policy, study design, funding, and outcomes. I am fascinated by policy and the limited use of evidence in how we determine policy at a national and local level. The studies in the U.K. set an important example of how these studies can help us measure real-world outcomes of such theory-based changes.
I highly recommend this book if you are looking for some intellectual, enjoyable, and health-focused reading!
Did you know the U.K. was a major leader in longitudinal cohort. studies?