The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) is a unique and rich resource of information on the health, social, wellbeing and economic circumstances of the English population aged 50 and older. The current sample contains data from up to six waves of data collection covering a period of eleven years.
The ELSA includes objective and subjective data relating to health and disability, biological markers of disease, economic circumstance, social participation, networks and well-being.
The multidisciplinary and longitudinal nature of the data allows for the examination of complex relationships and causal processes.
Sample members are drawn from respondents to the Health Survey for England (HSE). Study members have a face-to-face interview (a computer-assisted personal interview followed by a self-completion questionnaire) every two years of the study and a nurse assessment every four years. At waves 3, 4, 6 and 7 the study was replenished with new study participants (refreshments) from HSE to maintain the size and representativeness of the panel. At wave 3 respondents were invited to participate in a life-history interview (to capture information about important events that had taken place previously in their lives). A risk and time preference module was carried out in Wave 5. Wave 7 data will be available from the UK data archive in January 2016. Wave 8 fieldwork, which will include a nurse visit is due to commence in May 2016.
To enable longitudinal analysis, the same key topics are included in the content of the questionnaire for each wave, while others may be rotated on and off. The nurse interview involves measurements of physical function, anthropometric measurements and collection of blood samples (for extraction of biomarkers and DNA). To view which basic topics are asked at individual waves please click here.
The survey component of ELSA has been designed to maximise comparability of results with other international longitudinal studies on ageing, such as the US Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Additionally, other HRS based ageing studies have been developed in other countries such as China (CHARLS), Japan (JHRS) and India (LASI) and a major goal of the ELSA team is to test innovations in questionnaire design and share these innovations with these other collaborative studies.
The ELSA Wave 7 fieldwork was completed in May 2015 and the data will be accessible from the data archive by the end of May 2016. A number of new items were included in the survey at Wave 7: an objective measure of hearing ability, additional questions to determine cognitive ability and questions on expectations of paying for care and knowledge of care funding.
A report covering analyses from data collected up to the seventh wave of ELSA will be published in October 2016.
A recent study using data from ELSA has demonstrated that older people who are happier and enjoy life more show slower declines in physical function as they age, They are less likely to develop impairments in activities of daily living and their walking speed declines at a slower rate than those who enjoy life less.