The German National Cohort (NAKO) is a multidisciplinary, population-based prospective cohort study that aims to investigate the causes of widespread diseases, identify risk factors and improve early detection and prevention of disease. Specifically, NAKO is designed to identify novel and better characterize established risk and protection factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, respiratory and infectious diseases in a random sample of the general population. Between 2014 and 2019, a total of 205,415 men and women aged 19–74 years were recruited and examined in 18 study centres in Germany. The baseline assessment included a face-to-face interview, self-administered questionnaires and a wide range of biomedical examinations. Biomaterials were collected from all participants including serum, EDTA plasma, buffy coats, RNA and erythrocytes, urine, saliva, nasal swabs and stool. In 56,971 participants, an intensified examination programme was implemented. Whole-body 3T magnetic resonance imaging was performed in 30,861 participants on dedicated scanners. NAKO collects follow-up information on incident diseases through a combination of active follow-up using self-report via written questionnaires at 2–3 year intervals and passive follow-up via record linkages. All study participants are invited for re-examinations at the study centres in 4–5 year intervals. Thereby, longitudinal information on changes in risk factor profiles and in vascular, cardiac, metabolic, neurocognitive, pulmonary and sensory function is collected. NAKO is a major resource for population-based epidemiology to identify new and tailored strategies for early detection, prediction, prevention and treatment of major diseases for the next 30 years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1107-1124
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Communicable diseases
  • Epidemiology
  • Functional impairments
  • Life-style and socio-economic factors
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Non-communicable diseases
  • Population-based cohort
  • Pre-clinical disease
  • Psychosocial factors


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