About the Study

The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) began in 1986. The purpose of the study is to evaluate a series of hypotheses about men’s health relating nutritional factors to the incidence of serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, and other vascular diseases. This all-male study is designed to complement the all-female Nurses’ Health Study, which examines similar hypotheses. The HPFS is sponsored by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and is funded by the National Cancer Institute.

In the beginning, Walter Willett, Principal Investigator, and colleagues enlisted 51,529 participants, who identified as male, in health professions to participate in the study. This group is composed of 29,683 dentists, 4,185 pharmacists, 3,745 optometrists, 2,220 osteopath physicians, 1,600 podiatrists, and 10,098 veterinarians. Among the study participants are 531 African-Americans and 877 Asian-Americans.

Currently, 36 years later, the HPFS cohort consists of 21, 460 participants. This group is composed of 12,462 dentists, 1,757 pharmacists, 1,240 optometrists, 941 osteopath physicians, 578 podiatrists, and 4,482 veterinarians.

The researchers selected health professionals in the belief that men who chose these types of careers would be motivated and committed to participating in a long-term project and would appreciate the necessity of answering the survey questions accurately.

Every two years, members of the study receive questionnaires with questions about diseases and health-related topics like smoking, physical activity, and medications taken. The questionnaires that ask detailed dietary information are administered in four-year intervals.

Since its inception, thousands of published research articles have been produced by scientists at Harvard and globally working with data from the study.