Finnish Sample Collections

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Northern Finland Birth cohorts 1966 and 1986

Two birth cohorts collected from the Northern part of Finland: The 1966 cohort (NFBC 1966) ascertained 12058 live births to mothers in the northernmost two provinces of Finland and the 1986 cohort (NFBC 1986) ascertained 9432 births. Pregnancies were followed prospectively from the first antenatal contact (10-16th week), and the offspring then examined at birth, 1y, 7-8y (1986 only), 14-16y and, in the case of the 1966 cohort, at 31y and 46y (currently ongoing). At these time points, a wide range of phenotypic, lifestyle, demographic and other data were gathered using both questionnaires and clinical examinations. The NFBCs provide possibly the world’s largest data on early pregnancy measures with follow up until age 45y. In addition, linkage to national registries (hospitalization, deaths, education, medication, pensions) has provided (and continues to provide) access to additional sources of demographic and biological data. DNA samples are available for 5900 participants of NFBC 1966 and 6700 participants of NFBC1986. These “Oulu cohorts” have extensive data for intermediate phenotypes with established relevance to obesity related and behavioral traits, and include extensive quantitative information on substance use, particularly that of tobacco and alcohol, but also including data on drugs of abuse. In addition, extensive genetic data is available for many of the participants (see GWAS table).

University of Oulu, London Imperial College
Principal Investigator and Scientific Leader:
Marjo-Riitta Järvelin, University of Oulu, Imperial College London, firstname.lastname (at)
Operative Leader:
Sirkka Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi, University of Oulu, Oulu University Hospital, firstname.lastname (at)
Deputy Leader:
Anja Taanila, University of Oulu, Oulu University Hospital,  firstname.lastname (at)

Contact person:
Tuula Ylitalo, firstname.lastname (at)

Key references:
Temporal changes in incidence and prevalence of intellectual disability between two birth cohorts in Northern Finland. Heikura U, Taanila A, Olsen P, Hartikainen AL, von Wendt L, Järvelin MR. Am J Ment Retard. 2003 Jan;108(1):19-31

Pubertal Timing and Growth Influences Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Adult Males and Females. Widén E, Silventoinen K, Sovio U, Ripatti S, Cousminer DL, Hartikainen AL, Laitinen J, Pouta A, Kaprio J, Järvelin MR, Peltonen L, Palotie A. Diabetes Care. 2012 Feb 14

Family social class, maternal body mass index, childhood body mass index, and age at menarche as predictors of adult obesity. Laitinen J, Power C, Järvelin MR. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;74:287–294

Northern Finland Birth Cohorts (NFBC 1966 and NFBC 1986) - Detailed Information

In the NFBC Study, started by professor Rantakallio in 1965, the cohorts of women and newborns were collected at 20-year intervals from the provinces of Oulu and Lapland: the younger cohort with an expected date of birth between 1.7.1985–30.6.1986, comprising 9362 mothers and 9479 children (NFBC 1986), and the older cohort with an expected date of birth in 1966, comprising of 12068 mothers and 12231 children (NFBC 1966). The project was originally founded to investigate early risk factors for preterm birth, low birth weight, perinatal and later mortality and morbidity – especially neurological morbidity. The project sets out further to explore the genetic and environmental evolution of long-term morbidity, intermediate disease markers (e.g. cardiovascular disease, CVD), symptom variation and social well-being throughout the life-course as a means of identifying high risk groups and biological markers amenable to early intervention and prevention. Even though the standard of living and the quality of health care have increased during the past 30 years there are still a lot of regional differences which do not favor the northern part of the country.

Study protocol
For both cohorts, interviews and postal questionnaires were completed/returned from the 24th gestational week onwards (data since 12–16th gestational week). The course of pregnancy and delivery, including complications, were scrutinized from patient records, as was the neonatal outcome. The children were followed-up at the ages of 6–12 months, 7–8 years (NFBC 1986), 14–16 years (NFBC 1966, 1986), 31 years (NFBC 1966: mental disorders, personality features, atopy, asthma, markers of metabolic syndrome, anthropometry, measures of function, blood samples) and an extensive questionnaire and clinical study at 46 years (NFBC 1966, ongoing study from April 2012 to February 2014: Health behavior, work and lifestyle, cognitive ability, vision and hearing tests, dental health, mental health, cardiovascular measures, sprirometry, skin prick tests, blood samples for biomarkers, DNA, RNA, cells, etc.). Follow-up of the NFBC 1986 with clinical data collection – similarly as for the NFBC 1966 at age 31– has been carried out during 2001-2003 (neurobehavioral and mental disorders, spirometry, skin prick tests, physical fitness tests, anthropometry, blood samples).
In addition to studies that include the full cohort, several data collections included only part of the participants, for example: pregnancy induced hypertension and CVD risk factors (NFBC 1966), Oulu Back Study, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder study (NFBC 1986), psychiatric studies, audiogram studies, twin studies, bone density studies, and nutrition and physical tests (NFBC 1966).

Laboratory measurements and reserve sampling
Blood samples for 6,000 cohort members from NFBC 1966 including fasting serum lipids, insulin, samples for serum antibodies (IgA and IgG measured), cytokines, cotinine, CRP, Hb, samples for hormonal analyses, and nail clippings; and for 6798 from the NFBC 1986 including fasting serum lipids, insulin, APOA1, APOB,APOE, homocysteine.) There is stored DNA, serum and plasma for all who participated in the clinical examinations (~70–75% from the eligible population). Extensive SNP data is available for both cohorts: Illumina 370K chip for NFBC 1966 (N=5253), and Illumina's cardiometabochip for NFBC 1986 (N=6500).

Registry links and data handling
Routinely: Hospital discharge register, Death Register, social benefits, register for fully reimbursed medicines, pension register, as well as information about occupation and education. The data is stored electronically in a database and is accessible for researchers. Interested researchers should send their contact details to Tuula Ylitalo (tuula.ylitalo(at)

Professor Marjo-Riitta Järvelin, University of Oulu and Imperial College London, UK, prof. Anja Taanila, prof. Sirkka Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi, prof. Matti Isohanni, prof. Juha Veijola, prof. Jorma Virtanen, prof. Jaro Karppinen, and docent Minna Männikkö, from the University of Oulu are the key individuals for the cohorts. The study group is very active and has published a vast amount of data in internationally high impact journals. More information can be found at: