Understanding Society - Major studies
Consumer behaviour - Economics
Income, property and investment - Economics
General - Employment and labour
General - Health
Social attitudes and behaviour - Society and culture
Social indicators and quality of life - Society and culture
Family life and marriage - Social stratification and groupings
|Understanding Society, or the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), is conducted by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), at the University of Essex. The survey research organisation is NatCen Social Research (formerly the National Centre for Social Research), and in Northern Ireland, the Central Survey Unit of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).
As a multi-topic household survey, the purpose of Understanding Society is to understand social and economic change in Britain at the household and individual levels. It is anticipated that over time the study will permit examination of short- and long-term effects of social and economic change, including policy interventions, on the general well-being of the UK population. The study has a strong emphasis on domains of family and social ties, work, financial resources, and health. Further information about the survey may be found in the documentation, and on the Understanding Society web site.
The study is an annual survey of each adult member of a nationally representative sample. The same individuals are re-interviewed in each wave. If individuals leave their household, all adult members of their new household are interviewed. Each wave is collected over 24 months. Data collection takes place using computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI). One person completes the household questionnaire. Each person aged 16 or older answers the individual adult interview and self-completion questionnaire. Young people aged 10 to 15 years are asked to respond to a paper self-completion questionnaire.
The study has four sample components: the General Population component, the Innovation Panel, a boost sample of ethnic minority group members, and participants in the former British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) (held at the UK Data Archive under SN 5151). Waves 1-2 (SN 6614) include the General Population component and the ethnic minority boost sample. The Innovation Panel data are held separately under SN 6849. Former participants of the BHPS joined Understanding Society from Wave 2. BHPS sample members have an identifier within the Understanding Society datasets from Wave 2 onwards, allowing the matching of BHPS data to Understanding Society.
End User Licence and Special Licence Understanding Society data:
Users should note that there are two versions of the main Understanding Society data. One is available under the standard End User Licence (EUL) agreement, and the other is a Special Licence (SL) version. The SL version contains month and year of birth variables instead of just age, more detailed country and occupation coding for a number of variables and various income variables have not been top-coded (see the documentation available with the SL version for more detail on the differences). Users are advised to first obtain the standard EUL version of the data to see if they are sufficient for their research requirements. The SL data have more restrictive access conditions; prospective users of the SL version will need to complete an extra application form and demonstrate to the data owners exactly why they need access to the additional variables in order to get permission to use that version.
Special Licence files currently available:
- The SL versions of the main Understanding Society and Innovation Panel studies may be found under SNs 6931 and 7083 respectively.
- Low-level and Medium-level Geographical Identifiers data are also available subject to SL access conditions; see SNs 6666, 6668-6675 and 7182 (main study) and 6908-6916 (Innovation Panel).
|SN 6614, Understanding Society: Waves 1-2, edition history:
- The first edition (released December 2010) comprised data and documentation from Wave 1, Year 1.
- For the second edition (November 2011), materials for the second year of Wave 1 were added to the study, which now comprises the full set of Wave 1 data and documentation.
- For the third edition (February 2012) data and materials for the first year of Wave 2 were added to the study. The purpose of the Wave 2 interim release was to provide early access to longitudinal data from Understanding Society for the general population sample component, prior to the release of the full Wave 2 data in late 2012. This early release also contained data from the sample component of BHPS participants, but not the Ethnic Minority Boost sample component.
- For the fourth edition (January 2013) finalised data and documentation from Wave 2 were deposited, along with updated data and documentation for Wave 1. See documentation for full details of revisions and updates.
- For the fifth edition (November 2013) data and documentation from Wave 3 were deposited, along with updated data and documentation for Waves 1 and 2. See documentation for full details of revisions and updates.
Suitable data analysis software
These data are provided by the depositor in Stata 12 format. Users are strongly advised to analyse them in Stata. Transfer to other formats may result in unforeseen issues. Stata SE software is needed to analyse the larger files, which contain over 2,047 variables.
The survey instrument is constructed with modules. For a fuller listing of modules and questionnaire content see the User Manual or the online documentation system.
The household questionnaire includes a household composition listing of all household members with information about gender, date of birth, marital and employment status, and relationship to the household respondent. The household questionnaire also includes questions about housing, mortgage or rent payments, material deprivation, and consumer durables and cars.
The individual interview is asked of every person in the household aged 16 or over. It includes questions about demographics, baseline information, family background, ethnicity and language use; migration, partnership and fertility histories; health, disability and caring; current employment and earnings; employment status (for persons interviewed January-June); parenting and childcare arrangements; family networks; benefit payments; political party identification; household finances; environmental behaviours; consents to administrative data linkage.
The adult self-completed questionnaire is a pencil-and-paper instrument. The self-completion component asks about subjective questions, particularly those which are potentially sensitive or require more privacy. It includes feelings of depression (General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12)) and well-being, sleep behaviour, environmental attitudes and beliefs, neighbourhood participation and belonging, life satisfaction, activities with partner and relationship quality.
A proxy module, a much shortened version of the individual questionnaire, collects demographic, health, and employment information, as well as a summary income measure.
The youth self-completion questionnaire is a pencil-and-paper instrument for children aged 10-15. The content includes computer and technology use, family support, sibling relationships, feelings about areas of life, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), health behaviours, smoking and drinking, and aspirations.
Standard measures used:
Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 12 (SF-12)
General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12)
Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale
Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)
Dates of fieldwork:
Wave 1: January 2009 - March 2011. Wave 2: January 2010 - December 2011, with some interviews taking place in January 2012. Wave 3: January 2011-July 2013 (including 2013 reissue period).
Government Office Regions
Families and households
Kind of data:
Households and their individual members resident in the United Kingdom.
Multi-stage stratified random sample
Two-stage stratified systematic sample - see documentation for details.
Number of units:
Wave 1: 30,169 households, 50,994 adults and 4,899 young people aged 10-15 years. Wave 2: 30,508 households, 54,597 adults and 5,020 young people aged 10-15. Wave 3: 36,411 households, 51,594 adults and 5,911 young people aged 10-15.
See documentation for a breakdown of response by group.
Method of data collection:
Face-to-face interview; Self-completion
Weighting used. See documentation for details.
By principal investigator(s):
Understanding Society has its own Methodological Working Paper Series and Findings Series, both of which are freely available.
Booker, C. and Sacker, A. (2011) 'Limiting long-term illness and subjective well-being in families', Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 3(1), pp.41-65.
Demey, D., Berrington, A., Evandrou, M. and Falkingham, J. (2011) 'The changing demography of mid-life, from the 1980s to the 2000s', Population Trends, 145 (Autumn), pp.16-34. Retrieved October 19th, 2011 from http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/population-trends-rd/population-trends/no--145--autumn-2011/ard-pt145-changing-demography.pdf
Demey, D., Berrington, A., Evandrou, M., Falkingham, J. and McGowan, T. (2011) How has mid-life changed in Britain since the 1980s?, CPC Briefing Paper No. 2. Retrieved October 19th, 2011 from http://www.cpc.ac.uk/resources/downloads/Mid_Life_in_Britain_briefing2.pdf
Ferragina, E., Tomlinson, M. and Walker, R. (2011) 'Determinants of participation in the United Kingdom: a preliminary analysis', Understanding Society .
Knies, G. (2011) 'Life satisfaction and material well-being of young people in the UK', Understanding Society .
Knies, G., Burton, J. and Sala, E. (2012) 'Consenting to health record linkage: evidence from a multi-purpose longitudinal survey of a general population', BMC Health Services Research, 12(1), p.52.
McAloney, K. (2012) 'Inter-faith relationships in Great Britain: prevalence and implications for psychological well-being', Mental Health, Religion and Culture, (online), DOI:10.1080/13674676.2012.714359
Berrington, A., Stone, J. and Falkingham, J. (2013) The impact of parental characteristics and contextual effects on returns to the parental home in Britain, CPC Working Paper 29.
Crawford, C., Dearden, L. and Greaves, E. (2013) When you are born matters: evidence for England, IFS Reports, R80, London: Institute for Fiscal Studies. doi: 10.1920/re.ifs.2013.0080. Retrieved August 19, 2013 from http://www.ifs.org.uk/comms/r80.pdf
Crawford, C., Dearden, L. and Greaves, E. (2013) The impact of age within academic year on adult outcomes, IFS Working Papers, W13/07, May. London: Institute for Fiscal Studies. doi: 10.1920/wp.ifs.2013.1307. Retrieved August 19, 2013 from http://www.ifs.org.uk/wps/wp201307.pdf
Demey, D., Berrington, A., Evandrou, M. and Falkingham, J. (2013) 'Pathways into living alone in mid-life: diversity and policy implications', Advances in Life Course Research, 18(3), pp.161-174. doi:10.1016/j.alcr.2013.02.001
McAloney, K. (2013) 'Mixed' religion relationships and well-being in Northern Ireland', Journal of Religion and Health, pp.1-10.
McFall, S. L. and Buck, N. (2013) 'Understanding Society – the UK Household Longitudinal Survey: a resource for demographers', in Applied Demography and Public Health, Springer Netherlands, pp.357-369.
Tippett, N., Wolke, D. and Platt, L. (2013) 'Ethnicity and bullying involvement in a national UK youth sample' Journal of Adolescence, 36(4), pp.639-649.