Faculty of Medical Sciences

Staff Profile

Professor Fiona Matthews

Professor of Epidemiology, Ageing and Geroscience theme lead, Deputy Dean Research and Innovation, Faculty of Medical Sciences



A statistician by training, I have been involved in the design, implementation and analysis of epidemiological studies throughout my career.  Initially working in cancer research in 1997 I moved to the MRC Biostatistics Unit in Cambridge to work on the Cognitive Function and Ageing study (www.cfas.ac.uk) and am now deputy director and principal statistician on this suite of studies. Over the years I have developed a programme of research around developing and using state of the art statistical methods to the issues of understanding ageing. Moving to Newcastle University in 2014, my research programme covers both the development of statistical methods (complex synthesis, multi-state models and Bayesian models) and the use of techniques for estimates of public health importance (prevalence, incidence, understanding risk and protective effects and healthy life expectancy) across a range of outcomes from dementia, cognition through to frailty. Further research consists of understanding the biological underpinning of dementia with neuropathology and clinical research on dementia with Lewy Bodies, but also research designs for complex conditions such as dementia and autism. 

My Google Scholar Profile , ORCID (0000-0002-1728-2388) or Scopus

Roles and Responsibilities

Deputy Dean Research and Innovation, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University

Ageing and Geroscience theme lead, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University

Chair of the ESRC Grant Assessment Panel D


BSc (Hons) Statistics, University of Reading  (1991)

MSc Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London (1993)

PhD University of Cambridge (2005)

Professional membership

Member of the RSS Academic Affairs Advisory Group

Member of the IDEAL study scientific advisory panel

Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society

Previous Positions

Professor of Epidemiology, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University (2014-2018 part time)

Programme leader – Senior scientist. Lead of programme on statistical epidemiology in ageing research. MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge. 2008 - 2014 (2014-2018 part time)

MRC CFAS statistician. Senior research associate. MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge. 2000-2009

MRC CFAS statistician. Research Associate. MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge. 1997-2000

Non-clinical research scientist, Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, Surrey. 1993-1997

Computer officer, Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, Surrey. 1990-1993

Honours and Awards

RCGP Neurology, Mental Health and Dementia Paper of the Year (2013)

Gopal Kanji Prize for best article in Journal of Applied Statistics. (2011)


Research Interests


Statistical methodology:

  • Analysis of complex outcomes
  • Missing data models for epidemiological investigations
  • Multi-state models
  • Longitudinal models of epidemiological data
  • Study design for epidemiological studies for complex outcomes
  • Healthy life expectancy methods
  • Dyadic analysis


Applied Epidemiology:

  • Prevalence, incidence and survival with dementia and cognitive impairment, depression, frailty and other chronic diseases
  • Risk and protective influences on ageing health
  • Time trends and changing nature of ageing health
  • Population changes in dementia and cognitive impairment
  • Frailty and comorbidity of the older population
  • Understanding quality of life of people with dementia and their carers
  • Autism prevalence and risk factors for autism in populations



Research Roles


Deputy director and Principal Statistician Cognitive Function and Ageing studies

Improving the experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life (IDEAL)



Postgraduate Supervision


Supervise PhD Students across any of the research interests mentioned above, including the use of cohort studies and routine data to address epidemiological investigations, through to developing statistical methodology. 

I currently have five PhD students and am happy to take on new students.

Recent research grants

Alzheimer’s Society Understanding and improving support to help people with dementia and their carers prepare for advanced illness and end of life: a development study £241,238.00 (PI Knapp, LSE) Jan 2019 for 36 months

BRC Pilot Investigation of Predictors of Cognitive Decline in Mild Cognitive Impairment due to Lewy Body Disease £111,218 (PI Thomas, Newcastle) October 2018 for 30 months

National Institute of Ageing English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) to support mapping and pilot investigation of linkage to the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS) (PI Brayne, Cambridge) $75,000

Alzheimer’s Society Improving the experience of dementia and enhancing active life: a longitudinal perspective on living well with dementia (the IDEAL-2 study) £ £1,999,704.60 (PI Clare, Exeter) Jan 2018 for 60 months

ARUK The feasibility and practicality of dementia risk reduction in the older population: A pilot trial of multi-domain internet counselling. 2018-2020 (PI Brayne, Cambridge) £784,375 (30 months)

Alzheimer’s Society (PhD Fellowship) Cognitive Lifestyle: Impact of a changing society on the ageing brain. Principal Investigator and supervisior. 2016-2019 £80,918                                                                                                               [AS-PhD-2015-026]

MRC Statistical Epidemiology in ageing research (programme renewal). Principal Investigator. 2013-2018 £1,450,090

BMA Foundation Polypharmacy associated with non-prescription Medication use among Older Adults with Multi-Morbidity £40,000 (PI Dapo Ogunbayo, Newcastle)

SPCR What can we learn about care home residents from longitudinal studies. SPCR 2017-18 £45,000 (PI Hanratty)

Alzheimer’s Society Centre of Excellence Grant Improving the experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life (IDEAL) PI: Linda Clare, Exeter University 2017-2022 £1,999,704.60 [AS-PR2-16-001]

NIHR Organising General Practice for Care Homes: A multimethod study (PI: Barbara Hanratty, Newcastle) 2017-2018 £553,275

MRC BIOlogical Factors that Limit sustAined Remission in rhEumatoid arthritis (the BIO-FLARE study) (PI John Isaacs, Newcastle) 2017-2021 £3,461,217

ESRC Living well with dementia 2015-2019 (PI: Linda Clare, Exeter) (Invited co-I after award) £4,148,520

NIHR Dementia undetected or undiagnosed in primary care: the prevalence, causes and consequences. Co-Investigator (PI George Savva, UEA) 2016-2018 £350,000

Alzheimer’s Society Diabetes, Defective Nutrient Signalling and Dementia: an Epidemiological Neuropathology Approach. Co-Investigator (PI Steve Wharton, Sheffield) 2015-2018 £225,716 [AS-PG-14-015]

Alzheimer’s Society UK ABCD study: Anticholinergics, Benzodiazepines, Cognition and Dementia in middle and older age population. 2014-2018 Co-Investigator (PI George Savva, UEA)  £318,000 [AS-PG-2013-017]


I teach epidemiology on a number of courses both Undergraduate and Masters Courses. 

I have supervised a number of PhD studentship projects and am happy to consider new students.