General Lifestyle Survey Frequently Asked Questions
Why has the General Household Survey (GHS) changed its name to the General Lifestyle Survey (GLF/GLS)?
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. For more information see the slides from the 2006 and 2010 GHS user meetings or visit the GLF page on the ONS website.
Which years of the GLF are available?
The survey started in 1971 and has been carried out continuously since then, except for a break in 1997-98 and 1999-00. This is an ongoing survey and is supplied annually. For an up-to-date list of available datasets please refer to the Dataset Titles page. Please note that data for 1971 is only available as ASCII files and is not easily usable.
What format is the data available in?
Most years of the GLF are available in SPSS, STATA, SAS and ASCII tab-delimited formats.
Where can I obtain statistics and tables from the GLF?
These are published in the official Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports Living in Britain and are available from a good academic library or from The Stationery Office. The Living in Britain report is also freely available in Adobe Acrobat PDF format from the GHS web pages at the National Statistics website.
Does the GLF include information at the person level?
Yes. Information is held at both the household and individual level.
What is the most detailed geography I can analyse the data at?
The data is available at the level of Government Office Region. For example, variable GovRegGB in SN4646 GHS 2001-02 has the following categories:
1 NORTH EAST
2 NORTH WEST
4 YORKS AND HUMBER
5 EAST MIDLANDS
6 WEST MIDLANDS
9 SOUTH EAST
10 SOUTH WEST
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 the Doc column in the Dataset Titles page. A variable search tool is also available which allows users to find out whether a specific topic or question is covered in each of the GLF surveys (or any of the other government surveys).
Are the same questions asked each year?
Since 1971, the GLF 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.
Since the 2000 re-launch, the GLF has consisted of two elements: the Continuous Survey and Trailers. The Continuous Survey is to remain 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 GLF has retained its modular structure, which allows a number of trailers to be included each year to a plan agreed by sponsoring departments.
Why do some cases have missing person identifiers in the GHS 2005?
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.
Do I need to use weights to analyse the GLF?
Since 2000, a dual weighting scheme has been introduced to the GLF. The dataset contains one weighting variable for two purposes (1) to compensate for non-response in the sample (2) to gross up to match known population distributions in terms of region, age-group and sex. For the GHS (2006-2007), the weighting variable is called weight06. This weight applies to both individual and household level data. More information on the GLF weight is provided in the guide to Weighting the Social Surveys.
Can I use the GLF to analyse change over time?
Yes, and the long running nature of the survey is particularly useful for analysis of trends in socio-economic variables.
A GHS timeseries 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 timeseries dataset provides repeated cross-sectional data and can be used to monitor patterns of aggregate change. From 2005 the GHS has included a longitudinal element. However, the longitudinal data is not yet available and so the survey cannot currently be used to assess individual changes as we do not have repeated measures for individuals. More information can be found in the guide on Analysing change over time.
What population is covered in the GLF?
The GLF covers all individuals (adults and children) in the private household population in Great Britain.
Can I use the GLF for teaching purposes?
Yes, a number of GLF teaching datasets have been created. For ease of use within a teaching context, the datasets are restricted to a subset of key variables. The most recent teaching dataset is based on the GHS 2001-2002 and focuses on Social Capital (Study Number: 5308). Teaching datasets are available in 1995, 1991, 1987 and 1979. The dataset 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.
Is there a more general FAQ?
There is a generic FAQ for all surveys available.