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Int J Epidemiol. 2014 Feb;43(1):34-41. doi: 10.1093/ije/dys194.

Cohort profile: Wisconsin longitudinal study (WLS).

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University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA and Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) is a longitudinal study of men and women who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957 and one of their randomly selected siblings. Wisconsin is located in the upper midwest of the United States and had a population of approximately 14 000 000 in 1957, making it the 14th most populous state at that time. Data spanning almost 60 years allow researchers to link family background, adolescent characteristics, educational experiences, employment experiences, income, wealth, family formation and social and religious engagement to midlife and late-life physical health, mental health, psychological well-being, cognition, end of life planning and mortality. The WLS is one of the few longitudinal data sets that include an administrative measure of cognition from childhood. Further, recently collected saliva samples allow researchers to explore the inter-relationships among genes, behaviours and environment, including genetic determinants of behaviours (e.g. educational attainment); the interactions between genes and environment; and how these interactions predict behaviours. Most panel members were born in 1939, and the sample is broadly representative of White, non-Hispanic American men and women who have completed at least a high school education. Siblings cover several adjoining cohorts: they were born primarily between 1930 and 1948. At each interview, about two-thirds of the sample lived in Wisconsin, and about one-third lived elsewhere in the United States or abroad. The data, along with documentation, are publicly accessible and can be accessed at Requests for protected data or assistance should be sent to

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