Spotlight on: The Lifecourse Podcast

The Lifecourse Podcast is produced in collaboration with the ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health (ICLS)

Throughout August we will be throwing a spotlight on some of our podcast productions from the 2022/23 academic year. We finish with The Lifecourse Podcast produced in collaboration with the team at ESRC International Centre For Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health (ICLS) based at UCL.

The podcast is presented by our very own Chris Garrington (who also works with the team on wider communication strategies) and members of the ICLS team. It takes a deep dive into some of ICLS’ latest research, bringing together researchers, practitioners and key stakeholders interested in longitudinal studies in particular the British Birth Cohorts. Researchers discuss the context of their work, what they have found, what those findings mean and how they can be used to improve people’s lives.

Chris kicked off Series 2 by speaking to Dr Thierry Gagné (ESRC International Center for Life course studies at UCL) and Cynthia Callard (Executive Director at Physicians for Smoke Free Canada) about the public health concern of smoking in Canada. The three discussed the new body of research on smoking and vaping in Canada which aimed to demonstrate why tobacco control should still be a public health priority and understand the impact of vaping on public health, as well as comment on solutions.   

Thierry argued for the importance of

“Moving from a science of problems to a science of solutions… interventions that are tailored to specific social groups and also going towards tobacco companies trying to understand the strategies that they use and then see how we can use policy to prevent these”. 

Thierry Gagne, The Lifecourse Podcast (Jan 2022)

In episode 2 Chris spoke to Scott Montgomery (Örebro University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden), Helen Andrew and David Coutts (Research Manager at MS Society). Scott discussed his research into the causes of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) including adolescent concussion and infections like glandular fever. Helen went on to discuss her lived experience of MS including her struggle to receive a diagnosis, the personal importance of being included in research and experience of how MS is often forgotten by wider society. David spoke about the work of the MS Society, including their new Octopus clinical trials programme and public and government campaigning.  David also laid out his vision for the MS Society: 

“We are confident that we are going to have treatments and trials for everyone with MS and get us to a point soon where we can see a future for people which will mean their MS doesn’t get any worse” 

David Coutts, The Lifecourse Podcast (Feb 2022)

Helen finished the episode on a high note by saying:

“I’m so optimistic, and positive I love life… I’m a great believer in mind over matter… I live for today and I don’t think about the future” 

Helen Andrew, The Lifecourse Podcast (Feb 2022)

Episode 3 saw Rebecca Lacey from ICLS talk with Kirsten Asmussen from the Early Intervention Foundation about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). 

The pair began by explaining the 10 events classes as Adverse Childhood Experience that are linked to poor adult outcomes, how the Early Intervention Foundation works to find prevention methods, and how controversy in this area can affect how their research is received.  

Kirsten rounded up the conversation arguing that:

“We need to work harder to find out what we can do to stop child maltreatment or ACEs and prevent it, that does mean developing more interventions and using them” 

Kirsten Asmussen, The Lifecourse Podcast (May 2022)

In episode 4 Dr Anja Heilmann from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London (UCL) led an incredibly important conversation on physical punishment of children. She was joined by Bruce Adamson (the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland) and Jillian van Turnhout (children’s rights advocate and former Senator in Ireland).  

Anja began by laying out the research which unequivocally shows child punishment has no positive effect, often worsens behaviour, harms long term mental health, damages the relationship between child and parents and increases the risk of more severe abuse.  

Jillian spoke about her work in the Irish Senate to pass laws prohibiting child punishment, combatting old notions of family privacy by framing the argument in terms of equal protection and how legal clarity improved social workers conversations with families.  

Bruce discussed the incorporation of the international law on child punishment into Scottish law, the importance of incorporating parents into the conversation, and empowering children’s voices through civil society partners. When asked about the influence of research on policy change Bruce argued that:

“Research provides an essential role… and I think that is absolutely key” 

Bruce Adamson, The Lifecourse Podcast (Nov 2022)

Episode 5 saw Scott Montgomery return to the podcast to discuss the risk of drug misuse and suicidal behaviour among young people who have lost a parent around the anniversary of their death. Scott is joined by joined by child bereavement specialist Beck Ferrari and Olivia Clark-Tate whose father died nearly 10 years ago. 

Scott began by outlining the key findings of recent research which suggests that while only 2% of those bereaved are admitted for hospital treatment from drug abuse and 1% struggle with suicidal thoughts, there was an increased risk of drug misuse and suicidal thoughts around the anniversary of the parents’ death. This impact was observed most acutely on the first anniversary but persisted in the long term (particularly in the women studied). 

Olivia discussed relating to the findings of the research, particularly about the long-term effects of bereavement on mental health around the anniversary date. She also iterated the importance of checking on friends and family in the months leading up to the anniversary not just the few days before. Her takeaway message was that:

“The most important thing to now pass on to people…it’s just that checking in on people constantly” 

Olivia Clark-Tate, The Lifecourse Podcast (Jan 2023)

Beck discussed her work as a child bereavement specialist focusing on the importance of a personalised approach, considering other specific dates or periods of the year which may be more difficult for young people. She emphasised the importance of

“Really being proactive and opening conversations with young people as they are leading towards the anniversary”. 

Beck Ferrari, The Lifecourse Podcast (Jan 2023)

The Lifecourse Podcast is produced by ESRC International Centre For Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health in collaboration with Research Podcasts. 

If you are interested in our production services contact our Managing Director, Chris Garrington, for more information at

Research Podcasts offer podcast consultancy, production and training for researchers and academics. Check out our various training workshops including an introduction to podcasting workshophow to launch your podcast and our more advanced courses on podcast presentingpodcast editing, and how to build a podcast brand

Freya Peake, Research and Administration Assistant at Research Podcasts