40 Years of the Nurses' Health Study

It started with the pill. In the mid-1970s, the use of oral contraceptives was contentious. To study the effects on women, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded a longitudinal study on a large group of nurses — women fluent in technical medical language and trained to identify health conditions — from across the United States. The Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) began in 1976, with one clear purpose: to find “whether there are long term health effects of various forms of contraception.” The team was composed of researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and a total of 121,700 nurses participated in the original NHS cohort.

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Matthew Ankeny