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Chronic diseases are a major cause of premature death and disability globally. However, the evidence on the association of physical activity with these chronic diseases is mainly from high-income countries (HIC) and is mostly based on leisure-time physical activity (LTPA). In low- and middle-income countries such as China physical activity is mainly occupational, so patterns and levels may differ substantially from HIC. This project will investigate the association of physical activity with chronic disease in the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB).

The CKB is a prospective cohort study of 510,000 adults recruited during 2004-2008 from 10 diverse regions of China, with extensive data collection of lifestyle information (e.g. smoking, physical activity), and physical measurements (e.g. BMI, blood pressure). Currently the CKB has over 1.5 million ICD-10 coded disease events of more than 3,000 different types recorded, allowing for reliable and comprehensive assessment of relevance of physical activity to chronic disease.


The main lines of investigation will be subject to further discussion and based on the interests of the student.

The general aims of this DPhil project will be to:

  1. Describe patterns of physical activity in the CKB population, including distributions by age, gender, urban/rural area etc.
  2. Investigate the relationship between total physical activity, sedentary activity, and domain-specific physical activity with several chronic diseases (including, but not limited to, cancer, COPD, or other non-vascular diseases) after accounting for potential confounding factors (e.g. smoking, alcohol, diet).
  3. Assess whether the relationship of physical activity with these chronic diseases are modified by other risk factors (e.g. adiposity, blood pressure).

The student will gain research experience in systematic reviews, study design and planning, epidemiological and statistical methods, data analysis and data presentation. 


By the end of their DPhil studies it is expected that the student will be able to:

  1. Plan, undertake, and interpret statistical analysis of large-scale epidemiological data, and to report the findings in a clear and concise manner.
  2. Publish at least two peer reviewed papers as the lead author by the end of their DPhil and present the research findings at local, national, and international meetings.

There may be opportunities for involvement in future field work in China.

prospective candidate

The student should have an MSc in Epidemiology or Public Health, or be willing to do the MSc in Global Health Science at Oxford in preparation for the DPhil project. The student should have a strong interest in chronic disease epidemiology.