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Cohort profile: the Geoscience and Health Cohort Consortium (GECCO) in the Netherlands
  1. Erik J Timmermans1,
  2. Jeroen Lakerveld1,
  3. Joline W J Beulens1,2,
  4. Dorret I Boomsma3,
  5. Sophia E Kramer4,
  6. Mirjam Oosterman5,
  7. Gonneke Willemsen3,
  8. Mariska Stam4,
  9. Giel Nijpels6,
  10. Carlo Schuengel5,
  11. Jan H Smit7,8,
  12. Bert Brunekreef2,9,
  13. Jasper E C Dekkers10,
  14. Dorly J H Deeg1,
  15. Brenda W J H Penninx7,8,
  16. Martijn Huisman1,11
  1. 1 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  2. 2 Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  3. 3 Department of Biological Psychology, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  4. 4 Section Ear and Hearing, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  5. 5 Department of Clinical Child and Family Studies, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  6. 6 Department of General Practice and Elderly Care Medicine, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  7. 7 Department of Psychiatry, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, VU University Medical Center, GGZ inGeest, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  8. 8 Amsterdam Neuroscience, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  9. 9 Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  10. 10 Spatial Information Laboratory, Department of Spatial Economics, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  11. 11 Department of Sociology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Erik J Timmermans; ej.timmermans{at}


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.

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

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  • Contributors EJT, JL, JWJB, DIB, SEK, MO, GW, MS, GN, CS, JHS, DJHD, BWJHP and MH participated in the conceptual design of the study. EJT identified and gathered the existing environmental registry data. BB provided geo-data on air pollution. JECD helped to obtain geo-data on road-traffic, rail-traffic and air-traffic noise. All authors critically revised the manuscript and contributed to interpretation of the data. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding Financial support for GECCO was obtained from the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research (EMGO+) of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, which covered the identification and gathering of existing environmental registry data and linkage of these data to data from the cohort studies of the consortium. The Generations2-study is sponsored by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Stichting tot Steun/Pro Juventute and Fonds NutsOhra Zorgsubsidies. The Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA) is primarily supported by grants from the Netherlands Ministry of Health Welfare and Sports, Directorate of Long-Term Care. Additional funding for LASA was obtained from multiple grants from NWO. The first measurement round of the Netherlands Longitudinal Study on Hearing (2006–2010) was financially supported by the Heinsius Houbolt Foundation, the Netherlands. The second measurement round (2010–2014) was financially supported by Sonova AG, Switzerland. The third measurement round (2016–2020) is financially supported by the EMGO+ Institute and Sonova AG, Switzerland. The infrastructure for the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety is funded through the Geestkracht programme of the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw, grant number 10-000-1002) and matching funds from participating universities and mental healthcare organisations (VU University Medical Center, GGZ Buitenamstel, GGZ Geestgronden, Leiden University Medical Center, GGZ Rivierduinen, University Medical Center Groningen, Lentis, GGZ Friesland and GGZ Drenthe). The data collection in the Netherlands Twin Register was financially supported by multiple grants from NWO and ZonMw; the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI-NL) (184.021.007); the European Research Council, Genetics of Mental Illness (ERC-230374); the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) (1RC2MH089951-01, 1RC2MH089995-01) and the Avera Institute for Human Genetics, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA. The New Hoorn Study was financially supported by multiple grants from the VU University Medical Center of Amsterdam, Novartis Pharma B.V., the European Union and the Innovative Medicine Initiative.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval The six participating cohort studies in GECCO have been approved by the Ethical Review Boards of the respective institutions.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The geo-data that have been collected within GECCO are available on request, provided that additional requirements of the original geo-data source holder are fulfilled and an agreement is made up with the GECCO Research Team. More information is available online ( or available on request (

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