Cohort profile: the Geoscience and Health Cohort Consortium (GECCO) in the Netherlands

Erik J. Timmermans*, Jeroen Lakerveld, Joline W.J. Beulens, Dorret I. Boomsma, Sophia E. Kramer, Mirjam Oosterman, Gonneke Willemsen, Mariska Stam, Giel Nijpels, Carlo Schuengel, Jan H. Smit, Bert Brunekreef, Jasper E.C. Dekkers, Dorly J.H. Deeg, Brenda W.J.H. Penninx, Martijn Huisman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


PURPOSE: In the Netherlands, a great variety of objectively measured geo-data is available, but these data are scattered and measured at varying spatial and temporal scales. The centralisation of these geo-data and the linkage of these data to individual-level data from longitudinal cohort studies enable large-scale epidemiological research on the impact of the environment on public health in the Netherlands. In the Geoscience and Health Cohort Consortium (GECCO), six large-scale and ongoing cohort studies have been enriched with a variety of existing geo-data. Here, we introduce GECCO by describing: (1) the phenotypes of the involved cohort studies, (2) the collected geo-data and their sources, (3) the methodology that was used to link the collected geo-data to individual cohort studies, (4) the similarity of commonly used geo-data between our consortium and the nationwide situation in the Netherlands and (5) the distribution of geo-data within our consortium.

PARTICIPANTS: GECCO includes participants from six prospective cohort studies (eg, 44 657 respondents (18-100 years) in 2006) and it covers all municipalities in the Netherlands. Using postal code information of the participants, geo-data on the address-level, postal code-level as well as neighbourhood-level could be linked to individual-level cohort data.

FINDINGS TO DATE: The geo-data could be successfully linked to almost all respondents of all cohort studies, with successful data-linkage rates ranging from 97.1% to 100.0% between cohort studies. The results show variability in geo-data within and across cohorts. GECCO increases power of analyses, provides opportunities for cross-checking and replication, ensures sufficient geographical variation in environmental determinants and allows for nuanced analyses on specific subgroups.

FUTURE PLANS: GECCO offers unique opportunities for (longitudinal) studies on the complex relationships between the environment and health outcomes. For example, GECCO will be used for further research on environmental determinants of physical/psychosocial functioning and lifestyle behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere021597
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2018


  • environmental data
  • exposome
  • geographic information systems
  • health geography
  • longitudinal cohort studies

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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