MRC National Survey of Health and Development

1946 British birth cohort study

The Medical Research Council (MRC) National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) is the oldest and longest running of the British birth cohort studies.

Also known as the 1946 British birth cohort study, it has followed 5,362 men and women since their birth in England, Scotland or Wales in one week in March 1946, so far until age 68 years. Today, with study members in their sixties, the NSHD offers a unique opportunity to explore the long-term biological and social processes of ageing and how ageing is affected by factors acting across the whole of life.

From an initial maternity survey of 13,687 of all births recorded in England, Scotland and Wales during one week of March, 1946, a socially stratified sample of 5,362 singleton babies born to married parents was selected for follow-up. This sample comprises the NSHD cohort and participants have been studied 23 times.

During their childhood, the main aim of the NSHD was to investigate how the environment at home and at school affected physical and mental development and educational attainment. During adulthood, the main aim was to investigate how childhood health and development and lifetime social circumstances affected their adult health and function and how these change with age. Now, as participants reach retirement, the research team is developing the NSHD into a life course study of ageing.

Management and funding

The NSHD is funded by the MRC and managed by the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London.

Accessing the data

The 1946 MRC National Survey for Health and Development (NSHD) has governance and access arrangements that comply with MRC data sharing policy. The survey data are accessible to bona fide researchers by applying through the NSHD website.

Research metadata can be accessed via the NSHD Metadata repository.