UK Data Service series record for:
The Understanding Society study, or the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), which began in 2009, is conducted by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), at the University of Essex. 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 wellbeing of the UK population. The Understanding Society study is a successor to the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS). The BHPS sample forms part of Understanding Society from Wave 2 onwards.
GN 33423 | Understanding Society: Waves 1- , 2008-
GN 33428 | Understanding Society, 2008- : Special Licence Access
GN 33429 | Understanding Society: Waves 1- , 2008-: Secure Access
You can find links to the datasets in the DATA ACCESS section above. When you follow the link to a dataset you will be taken to its catalogue record which contains the following information:
Most survey data may be downloaded as SPSS, Stata or tab-delimited files. There is a download button near the top right of each catalogue record. Most datasets can be downloaded after you login to your UK Data Service account. See our Access pages for more information about how to access data.
See our Use data pages for more advice about getting started with analyses. These pages contain advice and training; guides about datasets, topics and methods and software including SPSS and Stata; information about how others have used the data and how to cite datasets. See also our Events pages for courses and webinars about how to find, use and manage data.
The main objective of the survey is to further our understanding of social and economic change at the individual and household level in Britain. 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 wellbeing of the UK population. Understanding Society is designed as a research resource for a wide range of social science disciplines and to support interdisciplinary research in many areas.
Understanding Society is designed as an annual survey of each adult (16+) member of a nationally representative sample of more than 40,000 households, making a total of approximately 100,000 individual interviews. The same individuals are re-interviewed in successive waves and, if they split-off from original households, all adult members of their new households were also interviewed. Children are interviewed once they reach the age of 16; there is also a special survey of 11-15 year old household members. Thus the sample will remain broadly representative of the population of Britain as it changes. The study has four sample components: the General Population component, the Innovation Panel, a boost sample of ethnic minority group members and from wave 2, participants in the former British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) (held at the UK Data Archive under SN 5151).
The main Understanding Society datasets are available to download in SPSS, Stata, and ASCII formats. Other formats, such as SAS, may be available upon request. There are also a number of datasets associated with the main data - see Understanding Society datasets. These are all available in SPSS, Stata, and ASCII formats.
Frequencies for each variable can be found in the Understanding Society Dataset Documentation webpages where you can list the variables (together with their frequencies) that come under certain 'Index Terms' (subject categories) or record types. Details of publications are given in the Understanding Society publications section of the Understanding Society data catalogue record and in the Understanding Society web pages.
The End User Licence data collections include Government Office Region as a geographic identifier. A variety of lower-level geographic identifiers are also available under Special Licence. These include Local Authority District, Westminster Parliamentary Constituencies, Local Education Authorities, Travel to Work Areas, and many more. Please see the data collections listed above under SN 33428 for full details. The Secure Access edition of the data includes OS Grid References. Please note that Special Licence and Secure Access data collections are restricted and information about access conditions can be found on the individual catalogue pages.
Many of the questions asked in Wave 1 have been repeated in subsequent waves. Some are repeated in all waves; these are the 'Core' questions (including current employment, current finances and health). Some variables appear in alternating waves or on a cyclical basis; these are known as the 'Rotating Core' questions (including family relationships, life satisfaction, health behaviours, political and social engagement). Some groups of questions will be asked only once in the life of the study; these are generally about stable characteristics (such as ethnicity, partnership history) and some are triggered by specific events (i.e. only asked after specific events such as leaving school or a divorce). More details are provided in the Long Term Content Plan. This is freely downloadable in PDF format via the Understanding Society website.
Understanding Society should always be ordered in its entirety since it is an integrated dataset. With each new wave that is produced, changes are made to the data and documentation from at least the previous wave. Data changes relate in particular to the adjustment of previous imputations.
Yes, for all waves all occupations are coded to the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC10) and also to the 2007 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC07). From Wave 3 onward job titles are coded to SOC2010 in the first instance and look-ups are used to code to SOC2000. SOC1990 codes are also provided using look-ups between SOC2000, SOC2010 and SOC1990.Various other standardised social class scales are also used. Understanding Society uses the General Health Questionnaire to measure mental health (all waves). For more information on standard coding schemes, please consult the Understanding Society User Guide which is freely downloadable in PDF format via the Understanding Society data catalogue record and also online at the Understanding Society User Documentation web pages.
1. Variable lists and PDF user guides (including questionnaires) are freely available via the Understanding Society data catalogue record.
2. The documentation, including the questionnaires, is available from the Understanding Society User Documentation web pages where you can list the variables (together with their frequencies) that come under certain 'Index Terms' (subject categories) or record types.
All Record Type names begin with a single character wave identifier; A = Wave 1, B = Wave 2, and so on. In the Understanding Society documentation, this wave-specific character has been replaced by a generic 'w'. The rest of the name attempts to provide a meaningful mnemonic given the data content (e.g. HH = household, IND = individual, RESP = respondent). Three records (XWAVEDAT, XWAVEID and XIVDATA) contain cross-wave matching information.
All variable names begin with a single character wave identifier, replaced by a generic 'w' in the documentation (as above). The rest of the name is a mnemonic which attempts to give some information as to the content of the variable. In general, the second and third characters give some indication of the general subject area of the variable. The conventions used are described in the Understanding Society User Guide, section 3.2.2. This is freely downloadable in PDF format via the Understanding Society data catalogue record and also via the Understanding Society User Documentation webpages.
Information on the weighting adjustments made in the data and which weights should be used in statistical analyses are described in the Understanding Society User Guide, section 3.7. This is freely downloadable in PDF format via the Understanding Society data catalogue record and also via the Understanding Society User Documentation webpages.
Data from future waves is expected to be released annually in the autumn. Future release dates can be found on the Understanding Society User support webpages.
An overview of the governance routes for applying for genetic and bio-medical sample data, which are not available through the UK Data Service, can be found on the METADAC (Managing Ethico-social, Technical and Administrative issues in Data Access) web pages.