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 seven waves of data collection covering a period of fourteen 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. Participants have also been visited by a nurse at waves 2, 4, 6 and 8 to collect blood and other measures of physical performance and health. Wave 8 data collection was completed in June 2017 and the data is now available at the UK Data Service. In early 2018 a sub study on approximately 1,000 ELSA participants will be conducted to examine how memory and cognition change as people age.
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 Brazil (ELSI-Brazil), 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 dataset is freely available to all bonafide researchers but an account will need to be set up for you.
Please contact the UK Data Service to gain access to the data.
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.