ELSA COVID-19 Substudy
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.
The first wave of data collection took place in June/July 2020 and the second wave is planned for early November 2020, to look at changes in participants’ experiences as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.
We aim to address the following questions:
1. What is the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis on health, access to health and social care, financial circumstances, mental wellbeing, and social activity in the older population in England? This will be addressed by a survey of the complete ELSA cohort (wave 1 from June 2020).
2. What changes take place in mental and physical health, finances, and social experience as this period of vulnerability, isolation, and return to social contact evolves? This will be investigated by a repeat assessment in the autumn (wave 2 from November 2020).
However, many other questions will be answerable with these data. When combined with current and future ELSA data, these data will be used extensively by the ELSA team and other researchers to examine the many immediate and long term impacts of COVID-19.
How we are collecting the data
We are collecting the data by a combination of internet and telephone assessments. All ELSA sample members (around 10,000 individuals) were contacted by post and invited to take part in Phase 1 via an online survey. This communication highlighted a £10 incentive for participation.
Those who are unable or unwilling to participate are contacted by the NatCen telephone unit carry out Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews (CATI) over a period of 3 to 4 weeks. The CATI has the same content as the internet survey but is adapted for telephone administration, where necessary.
The questionnaire takes around 30 minutes to complete.
Our assessment protocol combines new COVID-19 questions with measures used in previous ELSA waves of data collection. We have also been collaborating with the Wellcome Trust initiative coordinating questionnaire content across longitudinal studies, and with international colleagues who run longitudinal ageing studies similar to ELSA.
The wave1 protocol has the following components:
Questions concerning the experience of symptoms, illness, testing, and hospitalisation of the participant, their household, and people close to them.
Other health issues
New health conditions, access to hospital and primary care, and to medication.
Assessed using the CESD depression scale, the GAD7 anxiety scale, and wellbeing measures.
Questions on type of housing, number of rooms, access to private outdoor space; number, ages and relationships of people in the household.
Measured through changes in financial situation, worry about future financial security and ability to buy food, changes in income, receipt of benefits and financial assistance programmes, and expectations for the future.
Changes in work patterns, risk of infection during work and job security.
Social connections and isolation
Assessed with adaptations of existing measures of frequency of contact with immediate family, other relatives and friends on the telephone, email, and video-conferencing, and quality of relationship with partner. We will also measure loneliness, internet use, watching TV, volunteering and caregiving.
Measured through changes in smoking, drinking alcohol, physical activity, eating behaviour, sedentary behaviour, and sleep.
ELSA COVID-19 Wave 2
The follow-up wave 2 assessment is currently being finalised and fieldwork is scheduled to begin in November 2020.
The same measures will generally be used as in wave 1, though these may be modified on the basis of the evolution of the COVID-19 crisis.
Access to the ELSA COVID-19 Substudy data
Data from Wave 1 of the ELSA COVID-19 Substudy is now available to download via UKDS.
If you have any questions about the ELSA COVID-19 Substudy, please contact the ELSA Project Manager: ELSA@ucl.ac.uk.