The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) study, which began in 2002 (though the sample was constructed from earlier data) is a longitudinal survey of ageing and quality of life among older people. It explores the dynamic relationships between health and functioning, social networks and participation, and economic position as people plan for, move into and progress beyond retirement. The study is funded jointly by UK government departments and the National Institute on Aging, in the USA.
GN 33368 | English Longitudinal Study of Ageing
How can I find out about the datasets – variables, population, sample size etc.?
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:
- Download button: this is located near the top right of the catalogue record.
- A brief overview of the data: who collected the data, the main topics, the population covered, how the data were collected, the levels of geography and much more.
- Documentation: scroll down the catalogue record to find the documentation. All datasets come with documentation supplied by the data producer, normally in the form of searchable pdfs. The documentation varies from survey to survey but will normally include a user guide, the questionnaire and a technical report. These documents should tell you:
- how the data were collected and processed into its current format
- which topics were covered and the wording of the questions used
- how each variable was coded and how derived variables were constructed
- the name(s) of the weighting variables, how the weight(s) were constructed and when to use each one if there are more than one
- Related studies and Publications using the data: see which surveys are related, and how other researchers have used the data.
What format are the data in and where can I download them from?
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.
How do I get started with analysing survey 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.
What is the main objective of ELSA?
The aim of ELSA is to explore the unfolding dynamic relationships between health, functioning, social networks and economic position. It is in effect a study of people's quality of life as they age beyond 50 and of the factors associated with it.
How often are people interviewed for the survey and who is interviewed?
A sample of people over the age of 50 are interviewed every two years. The ELSA sample was selected from three survey years of the Health Survey for England (1998, 1999 and 2001). Households were included in ELSA if they contained at least one adult of 50 years or older in the household who had agreed to be recontacted at some time in the future.
What formats are the data available in?
The data are available in SPSS, Stata, SAS and ASCII tab-delimited formats.
Where can I obtain statistics and reports from ELSA?
Downloadable reports are available on the ELSA publications web page.
What is the most detailed regional level I can analyse the data at?
ELSA contains Government Office Region as the standard spatial identifier variable. More detailed variables can be requested directly from NatCen. Please see the ELSA User Guide for more information.
Does ELSA use standard coding schemes?
ELSA uses the following standard measures:
- Rose Angina Questionnaire
- Edinburgh Claudication Questionnaire
- MRC Respiratory Questionnaire
- CES-D depression scale (8-item)
- General Health Questionnaire (12-item)
Before I order, how do I find out what questions/variables are included?
Variable lists and PDF user guides (including questionnaires) are freely available via English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
When are future waves/sweeps likely to be made available?
Wave 7 of the study took place in 2014-2015 and data are expected to be deposited in 2016.
English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA); Wave 1, 2002-2003: Teaching Dataset (SN 5172)
Understanding the Importance of Work Histories in Determining Poverty in Old Age: Variables Derived from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, 2002-2007 (SN 6427)
Related case studies:
Ageing in a cultural context: Disability and control in the US and England
Approaching retirement: Expectations and financial decisions
The impact of social isolation and loneliness on mortality in older people
Free bus pass policy: Does it keep our senior citizens slim?
The impact of cold homes on health
Upskilling PhD students and researchers in data and methods
Enjoying life and living longer