|The General Household Survey (GHS) is a continuous national survey of people living in private households conducted on an annual basis, by the Social Survey Division of the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The main aim of the survey is to collect data on a range of core topics, covering household, family and individual information. This information is used by government departments and other organisations for planning, policy and monitoring purposes, and to present a picture of households, family and people in Great Britain.
From 2008, the General Household Survey became a module of the Integrated Household Survey (IHS). In recognition, the survey was renamed the General Lifestyle Survey (GLF/GLS).
The GHS started in 1971 and has been carried out continuously since then, except for breaks in 1997-1998 when the survey was reviewed, and 1999-2000 when the survey was redeveloped. Following the 1997 review, the survey was relaunched from April 2000 with a different design. The relevant development work and the changes made are fully described in the Living in Britain report for the 2000-2001 survey. Following its review, the GHS was changed to comprise two elements: the continuous survey and extra modules, or 'trailers'. The continuous survey remained unchanged from 2000 to 2004, apart from essential adjustments to take account of, for example, changes in benefits and pensions. The GHS retained its modular structure and this allowed a number of different trailers to be included for each of those years, to a plan agreed by sponsoring government departments.
Further changes to the GHS methodology from 2005:
From April 1994 to 2005, the GHS was conducted on a financial year basis, with fieldwork spread evenly from April of one year to March the following year. However, in 2005 the survey period reverted to a calendar year and the whole of the annual sample was surveyed in the nine months from April to December 2005. Future surveys will run from January to December each year, hence the title date change to single year from 2005 onwards. Since the 2005 GHS (held under SN 5640) does not cover the January-March quarter, this affects annual estimates for topics which are subject to seasonal variation. To rectify this, where the questions were the same in 2005 as in 2004-2005, the final quarter of the latter survey was added (weighted in the correct proportion) to the nine months of the 2005 survey. Furthermore, in 2005, the European Union (EU) made a legal obligation (EU-SILC) for member states to collect additional statistics on income and living conditions. In addition to this the EU-SILC data cover poverty and social exclusion. These statistics are used to help plan and monitor European social policy by comparing poverty indicators and changes over time across the EU. The EU-SILC requirement has been integrated into the GHS, leading to large-scale changes in the 2005 survey questionnaire. The trailers on 'Views of your Local Area' and 'Dental Health' have been removed. Other changes have been made to many of the standard questionnaire sections, details of which may be found in the GHS 2005 documentation.
Further changes to the GLF/GHS methodology from 2008
As noted above, the General Household Survey (GHS) was renamed the General Lifestyle Survey (GLF/GLS) in 2008. The sample design of the GLF/GLS is the same as the GHS before, and the questionnaire remains largely the same. The main change is that the GLF now includes the IHS core questions, which are common to all of the separate modules that together comprise the IHS. Some of these core questions are simply questions that were previously asked in the same or a similar format on all of the IHS component surveys (including the GLF/GLS). The core questions cover employment, smoking prevalence, general health, ethnicity, citizenship and national identity. These questions are asked by proxy if an interview is not possible with the selected respondent (that is a member of the household can answer on behalf of other respondents in the household). This is a departure from the GHS which did not ask smoking prevalence and general health questions by proxy, whereas the GLF/GLS does from 2008. For details on other changes to the GLF/GLS questionnaire, please see the GLF/GLS 2008: Special Licence Access documentation held with SN 6414. Currently, the UK Data Archive holds only the SL (and not the EUL) version of the GLF/GLS for 2008.
Changes to the drinking section
There have been a number of revisions to the methodology that is used to produce the alcohol consumption estimates. In 2006, the average number of units assigned to the different drink types and the assumption around the average size of a wine glass was updated, resulting in significantly increased consumption estimates. In addition to the revised method, a new question about wine glass size was included in the survey in 2008. Respondents were asked whether they have consumed small (125 ml), standard (175 ml) or large (250 ml) glasses of wine. The data from this question are used when calculating the number of units of alcohol consumed by the respondent. It is assumed that a small glass contains 1.5 units, a standard glass contains 2 units and a large glass contains 3 units. (In 2006 and 2007 it was assumed that all respondents drank from a standard 175 ml glass containing 2 units.) The datasets contain the original set of variables based on the original methodology, as well as those based on the revised and (for 2008 onwards) updated methodologies. Further details on these changes are provided in the Guidelines documents held in SN 5804 - GHS 2006; and SN 6414 - GLF/GLS 2008: Special Licence Access.
Special Licence GHS/GLF/GLS
Special Licence (SL) versions of the GHS/GLF/GLS are available from 1998-1999 onwards. The SL versions include all variables held in the standard 'End User Licence' (EUL) version, plus extra variables covering cigarette codes and descriptions, and some birthdate information for respondents and household members. Prospective SL users will need to complete an extra application form and demonstrate to the data owners exactly why they need access to the extra variables, in order to get permission to use the SL version. Therefore, most users should order the EUL version of the data. In order to help users choose the correct dataset, 'Special Licence Access' has been added to the dataset titles for the SL versions of the data. A list of all GHS/GLF/GLS studies available from the UK Data Archive may be found on the GHS/GLF/GLS major studies web page. See below for details of SL datasets for the corresponding GHS/GLF/GLS year (1998-1999 onwards only).
UK Data Archive data holdings and formats
The UK Data Archive GHS/GLF/GLS holdings begin with the 1971 study for EUL data, and from 1998-1999 for SL versions (see above). Users should note that data for the 1971 study are currently only available as ASCII files without accompanying SPSS set-up files. SPSS files for the 1972 study were created by John Simister, and redeposited at the Archive in 2000.
Currently, the UK Data Archive holds only the SL versions of the GHS/GLF/GLS for 2007 and 2008.
Reformatted Data 1973 to 1982 - Surrey SPSS Files
SPSS files have been created by the University of Surrey for all study years from 1973 to 1982 inclusive. These early files were restructured and the case changed from the household to the individual with all of the household information duplicated for each individual. The Surrey SPSS files contain all the original variables as well as some extra derived variables (a few variables were omitted from the data files for 1973-76). In 1973 only, the section on leisure was not included in the Surrey SPSS files. This has subsequently been made available, however, and is now held in a separate study, General Household Survey, 1973: Leisure Questions (held under SN 3982). Records for the original GHS 1973-1982 ASCII files have been removed from the UK Data Archive catalogue, but the data are still preserved and available upon request. Users should note that GHS/GLF/GLS data are also available in formats other than SPSS.
The main GHS consists of a household questionnaire, completed by the Household Reference Person, and an individual questionnaire, completed by all adults aged 16 and over resident in the household. A number of different trailers each year covering extra topics were included in later (post-review) surveys in the series from 2000.
The household questionnaire covers the following topics: household information, accommodation type, housing tenure/costs, and consumer durables including vehicle ownership.
The individual questionnaire includes data from the household dataset, and additional sections on migration/citizenship/national identity/ethnicity, employment, pensions, education, health, child care, smoking, drinking, family information, financial situation, and income.