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ELSA COVID-19 Substudy

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The ELSA COVID-19 Substudy aims to investigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the older population in England.

We have been awarded funding from the Economic and Social Research Council via the UK Research and Innovation Covid-19 Rapid Response call, to collect data from more than 10,000 of our ELSA participants, all aged 50 years and over, asking them about their experiences of the COVID-19 crisis.

Data Collection 

Fieldwork for the first wave lasted 54 days (7 weeks and 5 days), with the survey launching on 3rd June 2020. The CATI fieldwork started on the 29th June and lasted for 4 weeks, with a smaller number of study participants being assigned to the telephone interviewers two weeks earlier than the others.

The first wave of the ELSA COVID-19 Substudy closed on the 26th July 2020, achieving a final response rate of 75% (7,040 completed interviews from a sample of 9,392 study participants), with 83% of the surveys completed online and 17% on the phone.

The web fieldwork for the second wave started on the 4th November 2020 and lasted 47 days (6 weeks and 5 days, one week shorter than the first wave). The CATI fieldwork started one week after, on the 11th November.


The second wave of the ELSA COVID-19 Substudy closed on the 20th December 2020, confirming the same response rate and split in modes witnessed in the first wave of the Substudy: final response rate of 75% (6,794 completed interviews, with fewer study participants issued to the second wave due to refusals and ineligibility), 83% of the surveys were completed online and 17% on the phone.

Data from the first wave of the ELSA COVID-19 Substudy is now available to download via the UK Data Service.






Rapid reports

Financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for
older people
30th September 2020
The experience of older people instructed to shield or self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic
30th September 2020 (updated 13th October 2020) 
The experience of older people
with multimorbidity during the
COVID-19 pandemic
30th September 2020
Changes in older people’s experiences of providing care and of volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic
30th September 2020

Methodological report 

Adapting fieldwork during the COVID-19 outbreak
A methodological overview of the ELSA COVID-19 Substudy 
30th September 2020
  • What is the main objective of ELSA?
    The aim of ELSA is to explore the unfolding dynamic relationships between health, functioning, social networks and economic position in people aged 50 and over who reside in England. You can find out more in the About us section.
  • How often are people interviewed for the survey and who is interviewed?
    A sample of people over the age of 50 are interviewed every two years. The ELSA sample was selected from three survey years of the Health Survey for England (1998, 1999 and 2001). Households were included in ELSA if they contained at least one adult of 50 years or older in the household who had agreed to be recontacted at some time in the future. Find out more in the About us section.
  • How do I become an ELSA participant?
    We currently do not offer recruitment on an ad hoc basis as we recruit directly from people who have taken part in another study called the Health Survey for England. However, if you are interested in taking part in other studies you can contact our fieldwork partner directly on: NatCen: 0207 250 1866
  • As a participant of the study who should I contact if I have a question?
    If you are an ELSA participant and you would like to contact the study, please email or telephone a member of the ELSA team using the free phone number 0800 652 4574.
  • What data are collected in ELSA?
    An overview can be found in The data we collect section.
  • How can I access study data?
    Researchers can download ELSA data from all waves, including wave 0 (HSE), from the UK Data Service. If you are in the UK and your organisation is part of the UK Access Management Federation (UKAMF), you can access UKDS via your institution’s account. Find out if your institution is a member. If you are not in the UK, or your organisation is not on the list of federation members, you can request a username. Please see further details on the ELSA website at:
  • How do I register with the UKDS?
    You can register for an account with the UK Data Service here: You can find instructions on how non-UK users can register at If you have any problems please contact the UK Data Service at, their email address is and help is available at
  • Is there a fee to access data?
    The majority of data are free to access via the UK Data Service. Details can be found on the ELSA website: If you require non-archived variables (eg detailed ethnicity, specific country of birth), you would need to apply to access these and there would be an admin fee for this. There is also a fee to access genetic data linked to phenotypic data.
  • How can I access ELSA genetic data linked to phenotypic data?
    Details on how to access ELSA genetic data linked to phenotypic data can be found here:
  • How can I access Special License data?
    Special Licence data can be accessed via the UK Data Service. A list of the Special Licence datasets that can be accessed via UKDS can be found under GN 33542 on this page:!/access-data#statistics (UKDS login required).
  • Can I access Mortality and/or HES data?
    Mortality and HES data are currently only available to the ELSA team, we do not currently have an onward sharing agreement with NHS England. We hope to have an onward sharing agreement in place in the future, please check this page for any updates. If your research is on Covid-19, you can access ELSA data linked to HES, mortality and many other administrative datasets, via the UK Longitudinal Linkage Collaboration:
  • What nutritional data are available?
    The Oxford WebQ online nutrition module was administered for the first time in ELSA in Wave 9 and we plan on including it again in wave 11. The Oxford WebQ is a validated web-based 24-hour dietary assessment tool developed for repeated administration in large prospective studies. It is a self-administered low-cost method for measuring dietary intake. At the wave 9 launch event, there was a presentation on the nutrition module which can accessed here: There is also some further information in the accompanying wave 9 report, which can be found here:
  • During which waves have cortisol data been collected?
    Saliva samples were collected in waves 2 and 4 and hair samples in wave 6 with a view to measuring cortisol. At present, cortisol data are available from the samples collected in waves 2 and 6, and not wave 4 due to funding restrictions.
  • When are future waves likely to be made available?
    You can currently download ELSA data on UKDS up until Wave 10: (UKDS login required). Wave 11 fieldwork is currently ongoing and data are due to be deposited in January 2025. Sign up for alerts when new data are available.
  • Ethical approval statement/info
    ​ELSA Wave 11 received ethical approval from the South Central – Berkshire Research Ethics Committee on 22nd May 2023 (23/SC/0112).
  • How should I reference the ELSA study in an academic paper?
    The citation for the dataset can be found here: And the cohort description can be found here:
  • Do you provide data in long format?
    We do not provide data in long format. This must be carried out by the data users themselves.
  • Can data be used for commercial use?
    We are unable to provide access to ELSA samples/data for commercial purposes. This is a stipulation of our funding conditions.
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