What we do

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) is a unique and rich resource of information on the dynamics of health, social, wellbeing and economic circumstances in the English population aged 50 and older. The current sample contains data from up to eight waves of data collection covering a period of 15 years.

We collect both objective and subjective data relating to health and disability, biological markers of disease, economic circumstance, social participation, networks and well-being. ELSA aims to measure outcomes across a wide range of domains and to provide high-quality multidisciplinary data that can shed light on the causes and consequences of outcomes of interest. Current funding for ELSA will extend the panel to 18 years of study, giving significant potential for longitudinal analyses to examine causal processes.

The survey data are designed to be used for the investigation of a broad set of topics relevant to understanding the ageing process. These include:

  • health trajectories, disability and healthy life expectancy;
  • the determinants of economic position in older age;
  • the links between economic position, physical health, cognition and mental health;
  • the nature and timing of retirement and post-retirement labour market activity;
  • household and family structure, social networks and social supports;
  • patterns, determinants and consequences of social, civic and cultural participation;
  • predictors of well-being.

In each of these domains, we aim to use high-quality measures.

Sample design

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, 7 and 9, 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. Wave 9 data collection, which now includes an online dietary questionnaire, began in July 2018.

Data collection

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.

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English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

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