GNC study surveys participants on COVID-19

The pandemic will likely have grave consequences for the health and well-being of the German population. The GNC study now wants to find out exactly what those consequences are. All subjects are being asked to take part in a survey.

“The GNC is the only nationwide cohort study that collected data on the health of the German population right before and at the start of the pandemic,” says Professor Annette Peters, chair of the GNC board of directors and head of the Institute of Epidemiology at Helmholtz Zentrum München. “As a result, the GNC provides the ideal basis for studying the effects of the pandemic on the population’s health.” 

Experts predict that the pandemic and shutdown will have dire health consequences. So the researchers of the German National Cohort (GNC; German abbreviation: NAKO) have now launched a COVID-19 survey. Its purpose is to gather information on the spread, progression and impact of the virus in Germany. The research initiative got under way in late April; all subjects in the GNC study are being asked to participate.

It’s not only about the infection status

Half of the survey consists of questions related to infectious disease epidemiology, such as the participants’ state of health, infection status, changes in behavior due to the pandemic and social contacts during this time. Other questions deal with the psychosocial effects of the pandemic, including possible changes in employment status, lifestyle and social life as well as psychological effects. The questions are designed so that the data gathered can be compared directly with the data gathered by the GNC study prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 survey questionnaire was developed by GNC expert groups with broad expertise in infectious diseases and chronic conditions. It can be completed online or by mail and is limited to GNC participants. Those who want to use the online version will receive an email with login details. If participants have not provided an email address or if their address has changed, they should contact the respective study center. In addition, the GNC head office is making the questionnaire available for use in other studies.

“Our study center also had to temporarily shut down due to the pandemic,” says Professor Tobias Pischon, head of the GNC’s Berlin-North Study Center at the MDC and a member of the GNC board of directors. “But we naturally want to know how are subjects are faring. Our network and the survey questionnaires now being sent out provide an opportunity to track the long-term effects of this pandemic”

Further information

Coronavirus research at the MDC

Berlin-North Study Center  

Website of the German National Cohort



Professor Tobias Pischon

Head of the Molecular Epidemiology Lab
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC)
+49 (0)30 9406 4563  

Glorianna Bisognin-Nechwatal
Press Officer

German National Cohort (GNC)

+49 (0)6221 426 2061

The German National Cohort (GNC)

The German National Cohort (GNC) is a joint interdisciplinary endeavor of 27 research institutions. The network includes scientists from the Helmholtz and Leibniz Associations, universities and other research institutes in Germany. The cohort study is implemented by the German National Cohort Association at 18 regional study centers. It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Helmholtz Association and the participating federal states.

The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC)


The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) is one of the world’s leading biomedical research institutions. Max Delbrück, a Berlin native, was a Nobel laureate and one of the founders of molecular biology. At the MDC’s locations in Berlin-Buch and Mitte, researchers from some 60 countries analyze the human system – investigating the biological foundations of life from its most elementary building blocks to systems-wide mechanisms. By understanding what regulates or disrupts the dynamic equilibrium in a cell, an organ, or the entire body, we can prevent diseases, diagnose them earlier, and stop their progression with tailored therapies. Patients should benefit as soon as possible from basic research discoveries. The MDC therefore supports spin-off creation and participates in collaborative networks. It works in close partnership with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in the jointly run Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité, and the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK). Founded in 1992, the MDC today employs 1,600 people and is funded 90 percent by the German federal government and 10 percent by the State of Berlin.