Cohort profile: LIFEWORK, a prospective cohort study on occupational and environmental risk factors and health in the Netherlands

BMJ Open. 2018 Feb 3;8(2):e018504. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018504.


Purpose: LIFEWORK is a large federated prospective cohort established in the Netherlands to quantify the health effects of occupational and environmental exposures. This cohort is also the Dutch contribution to the international Cohort Study of Mobile Phone Use and Health (COSMOS). In this paper, we describe the study design, ongoing data collection, baseline characteristics of participants and the repeatability of key questionnaire items.

Participants: 88 466 participants were enrolled in three cohort studies in 2011-2012. Exposure information was collected by a harmonised core questionnaire, or modelled based on occupational and residential histories; domains include air pollution (eg, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter with diameter ≤2.5 µm (PM2.5)), noise, electromagnetic fields (EMF), mobile phone use, shift work and occupational chemical exposures. Chronic and subacute health outcomes are assessed by self-report and through linkage with health registries.

Findings to date: Participants had a median age of 51 years at baseline (range 19-87), and the majority are female (90%), with nurses being over-represented. Median exposure levels of NO2, PM2.5, EMF from base stations and noise at the participants' home addresses at baseline were 22.9 µg/m3, 16.6 µg/m3, 0.003 mWm2 and 53.1 dB, respectively. Twenty-two per cent of participants reported to have started using a mobile phone more than 10 years prior to baseline. Repeatability for self-reported exposures was moderate to high (weighted kappa range: 0.69-1) for a subset of participants (n=237) who completed the questionnaire twice.

Future plans: We are actively and passively observing participants; we plan to administer a follow-up questionnaire every 4-5 years-the first follow-up will be completed in 2018-and linkage to cause-of-death and cancer registries occurs on a (bi)annual basis. This prospective cohort offers a unique, large and rich resource for research on contemporary occupational and environmental health risks and will contribute to the large international COSMOS study on mobile phone use and health.

Keywords: electromagnetic fields; epidemiology; occupational and environmental exposures; population-based studies; repeatability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Environmental Health
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult


  • Particulate Matter
  • Nitrogen Dioxide