Framingham Heart Study

The Framingham Heart Study is a cardiovascular study based in Framingham, Massachusetts. The study began in 1948 with 5,209 adult subjects from Framingham, and is now on its third generation of participants. Much of the now-common knowledge concerning heart disease, such as the effects of diet, exercise, and common medications such as aspirin, is based on this longitudinal study. It is a project of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, in collaboration with (since 1971) Boston University. Various health professionals from the hospitals and universities of Greater Boston staff the project.


Thomas Royle Dawber was Director of the study from 1949 to 1966. He was appointed as chief epidemiologist shortly after the start of the project, when it was not progressing well.[1] The study had been intended to last 20 years, but at that time Dawber moved to Boston and became chairman of preventive medicine, raising funds to continue the project and taking it with him.

One of the crucial questions in evidence-based medicine is how closely the people in a study resemble the patient you are dealing with.[2] Recently the Framingham studies have become regarded as overestimating risk, particularly in the lower risk groups, for UK populations.[3] There has been widespread discussion of the study, and it is generally accepted that the work is outstanding in its scope and duration, and is overall considered very useful. Researchers recently used contact information given by subjects over the last 30 years to map the social network of friends and family in the study.[4]

The initial population was 5,209 healthy men and women aged 30 to 60, not the whole of the town population, as is sometimes assumed. A similar longitudinal study has been carried out in a high proportion of the residents of Busselton, a town in Western Australia, over a period of many years;[5] however, Framingham is more widely cited.


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