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The General Lifestyle Survey (GLF or sometimes referred to as the GLS), formerly known as the General Household Survey (GHS), ran from 1971-2012. It was a multi-purpose continuous survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics that collected information on a range of topics from people living in private households in Great Britain. This information was used by government departments and other organisations for planning, policy and monitoring purposes. The survey closed in January 2012.
GN 33090 | General Household Survey, 1971-2006
GN 33403 | General Lifestyle Survey, 1998-2011: Special Licence Access
GN 33430 | General Lifestyle Survey, 2000-: Secure Access
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The General Lifestyle Survey (GLF), formerly 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 GHS became a module of the Integrated Household Survey (IHS). In recognition, the survey was renamed the General Lifestyle Survey.
The name change reflects changes to the GLF survey design and content that satisfy new EU requirements to produce comparable data to the Survey of Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC). The 2005-2006 GLF fieldwork is the first to be undertaken with a longitudinal survey design and with a slight change in substantive emphasis, which leans towards a greater range of questions on social exclusion.
The GHS/GLF started in 1971 and was carried out continuously until 2010, except for a break in 1997-98 and 1999-00. The GHS was replaced in 2008 by the General Lifestyle Survey, which is available under Special Licence only. Please note that GHS 1971 is only available as ASCII files and is not easily usable. The final survey year before closure is 2011, available under Special Licence Access. The most recent wave available under End User Licence is 2006. See the DATA ACCESS section on this webpage for details.
The GHS/GLF covers all individuals (adults and children) in the private household population in Great Britain.
Information is held at both the household and individual level.
Variable lists and PDF user guides (including questionnaires) are freely available on the catalogue page of each dataset. To find a dataset’s catalogue page, follow the link to the dataset from this page under DATA ACCESS or from the results pages in our database search engine Discover.
Since 1971, the GHS has included questions on population and fertility, housing, health, employment and education. Within these main subject areas, certain basic data have been collected throughout the life of the survey. Between 1971 and 1999, in addition to regular 'core' questions, certain subjects were covered periodically, such as family and household formation, health and related topics, use of social services by the elderly and participation in sports and leisure activities. New topics were introduced at various times.
After the 2000 re-launch, the GHS consisted of two elements: the Continuous Survey and Trailers. The Continuous Survey remained unchanged for the five-year period April 2000-March 2005, apart from essential changes to take account of, for example, changes in benefits and pensions. The GHS retained its modular structure, which allowed a number of trailers to be included each year to a plan agreed by sponsoring departments. The transition to the General Lifestyle Survey saw a slight change in substantive emphasis, with a greater range of questions on social exclusion.
Yes and the long running nature of the survey is particularly useful for analysis of trends in socio-economic variables.
A GHS time-series dataset has been produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which combines each annual round of the GHS into one dataset containing over 40 variables with information on demographics, households, education, employment and health. The GHS time-series dataset provides repeated cross-sectional data and can be used to monitor patterns of aggregate change. From 2005 the GHS (and subsequently the General Lifestyle Survey) included a longitudinal element. Note that the GLF appears as a Special Licence dataset.”
The GHS/GLF has had weights since 1996 and these weights should be used in analyses. There were no weights in the GHS prior to 1996. See the documentation for more information about weighting the GHS/GLF.
PID is the person identifier variable and in the GHS it is missing for cases conducted in the first quarter.
The GHS 2005 file is drawn from two sources. A new design was introduced with a larger sample and a calendar year cycle in the second quarter; this data is therefore available for quarters 2-4. Data for the first quarter is drawn from the GHS 04/05 in order to generate a file which relates to the full calendar year.
Cases for the first quarter do not have the person identifier variable PID. Furthermore, it is not possible to uniquely identify individuals by combining information on hserial and persno, as duplicates may occur between the 05 and 04/05 data. However, it is possible to uniquely identify cases using a combination of hserial, persno and sampqtr.
RELTO01 is the relationship to person number 1, RELTO02 is the relationship to person number 2 and so on. Person number is obtained from the variable 'PERSNO'.
So, for example, if there are two people who are a married couple (PERSNO 1 and PERSNO 2). For PERSNO 1, RELTO01 = 0 (self) and RELTO02 = 1 (spouse). For PERSNO 2, RELTO01 = 1 (spouse) and RELTO02 = 0 (self). In a larger household this would continue in the same fashion.
The information about ethnicity is not rich enough in early years and appeared for the first time in the 1983 GHS datasets. Country of birth is available in the GHS from 1971 onwards and time of arrival can be found only from 1974.
The documentation suggests that "grosspay" is measured in pence. The derived variable specification shows that grosspay is derived from grosssam which is in pounds, multiplied by 100. So, your sample mean of 24744, should be read as £247.44.
Before 1998, the data are divided into a number of small datasets (modules) (i.e. person data, household data, income data, etc.). How can I combine these modules?
There are two id variables persno and hserno, a person identifier in each household, and the household identifier. You can combine the different modules using these variables. Bear in mind that some datasets are at the individual level and others at the household level.
The Living in Britain report is also freely available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format from the GHS web pages on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website.
Using the General Household Survey for teaching
There are no teaching datasets based on the GLF but a number of GHS teaching datasets have been created. Teaching datasets are restricted to a subset of key variables and can help class tutors to incorporate empirical data into their courses and thus develop student's skills in quantitative methods of analysis and their knowledge of large-scale government surveys.
See our teaching pages for practical information, exemplars, and tips for using UK Data Service data in teaching, including: