Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study

Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) studies 21st century UK life and how it is changing. It captures important information every year about the social and economic circumstances, attitudes, behaviours and health of people living in thousands of UK households.

Information from the longitudinal survey is primarily used by academics, researchers and policy makers in their work, but the findings are of interest to a much wider group of people including those working in the third sector, health practitioners, business, the media and the general public.

Interviews began in 2009 with eligible members of nearly 32,000 selected households invited to take part. A further 8,000 households from the British Household Panel Survey (see below) were invited to join at wave 2. Adults are interviewed and 10-15 year-olds fill in a paper self-completion questionnaire every 12 months. New people join the study as they join the households of existing members. In 2010-11, some 20,000 participants aged over 16 also received nurse visits and provided a blood sample and some basic physical measurements (height, weight, blood pressure, grip strength).

Innovation Panel

1,500 of the UKHLS households are also part of the innovation panel, which is used by researchers as a test bed for new ways of collecting data or exploring new topics before they become part of the main survey.

Ethnicity Strand

UKHLS also has an ethnicity strand, with boost samples to ensure the study had at least 1,000 adults from the five main ethnicity groups in the UK. There are also extra questions asked each year of particular relevance to ethnic groups. In 2015, a further immigrant and ethnic boost sample will be added to the study.

British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and UKHLS

UKHLS builds on the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which has been running since 1991. As part of wave 18 of the BHPS, participants were asked if they would consider joining the new, larger and more wide-ranging survey called UKHLS. Almost 6,700 of just over 8,000 BHPS households joined the new study. The first interviews with BHPS participants were carried out in wave 2 of UKHLS in 2010-2011. For more information on BHPS, visit the UKHLS website.

Management and funding

UKHLS is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, with significant additional funding provided by the government’s Large Facilities Capital Fund and a consortium of government departments. It is run by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex.

Accessing the data

Three waves of data are available, with each subsequent wave released annually in November. UKHLS can be accessed by bona fide researchers through the UK Data Service at the University of Essex. Anyone wishing to access the data will need to register with the UK Data Service before downloading. Some datasets are only available via Special Licence, or via the UK Data Service Secure Lab. Access arrangements comply with ESRC Research Data Policy.