Guide to English Longitudinal Study of Ageing
ESDS Longitudinal provides:
- a web-based download service
- specialist user support (linking with specialist support provided by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS))
- training and workshops
- and a range of value-added data enhancements for a number of key UK longitudinal data collections, including the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing
The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) is the first study in the UK to connect the full range of
topics necessary to understand the economic, social, psychological and health elements of the ageing process.
As many as a third of people in Britain are now aged 50 or over. This group of people is vitally
important: it accounts for half the the nation's spending and three quarters of its wealth. Many
people now retire earlier and enjoy an active and healthy retirement, but some struggle
financially and/or suffer poor health.
ELSA aims to study a sample of people over the age of 50 every two years in order to see how
people's health, economic and social circumstances change over time. One of the study's key aims is to help the government plan for an ageing
population and longer periods of retirement, and ensure that the UK's healthcare and pension
systems will be able to meet everyone's needs.
ELSA is modelled on a similar study in the US (the Health and Retirement Study)
and is being conducted jointly by National Centre for Social Research (NatCen),
University College London (UCL) and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
Access to ELSA
Users registered with the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) have access to the ELSA datasets via
the download service or can analyse, visualise, subset and download selected data from ELSA via the online
Nesstar software tool.
- ELSA datasets:
- ESDS Nesstar Catalogue:
ELSA - ESDS data holdings
The ELSA data currently available via ESDS are Waves 0-4. Wave 0 data
comprise material from ELSA sample members collected in the three different
Health Survey for England studies (1998, 1999 and 2001) used to construct the
original ELSA sample.
Joint ELSA/SHARE database
Users may request access to the ELSA portion of the data from a project to
harmonise ELSA Wave 2 and SHARE Wave 1 (both 2004) data undertaken by Valeria Bordon at the University of
Please contact for further details. The SHARE portion of this joint
database can be accessed via CentERdata: .
ELSA teaching dataset
An ELSA teaching data file has been created, containing information obtained
from individual interviews and selfcompletion questionnaires from all 12,100
ELSA participants. The file contains less than a tenth of the variables
available on the main ELSA file and is designed for use as a teaching aid and
also as a sampler for new and potential users of the main data. Variable names
are the same as those in the original ELSA dataset, held under SN 5050. The
individual interview comprised the following twelve modules:
- household demographics (variables prefixed DH)
- individual demographics (DI)
- health (HE)
- social participation (SP)
- work and pensions (WP)
- income and assets (IA)
- housing (HO)
- cognitive function (CF)
- expectations (EX)
- psycho-social health (PS)
- final questions (FQ)
- self-completion (SC)
The teaching dataset contains selected variables from each of these modules,
with the exception of household demographics. In total there are 408 variables
in the dataset.
There are a host of ELSA resources on the web. Interested users can search the following sites for information
on key findings from the study, information about the study team and future plans and activities.
- ELSA respondents' web site:
- NatCen Ageing Research:
- IFS ELSA web site:
- Health and Retirement Study (US):
- Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE):
Users are welcome to keep up-to-date with ELSA developments via the ESDS
Longitudinal JISCmail list -
ESDS user documentation for ELSA can be downloaded in the form of a
multi-volume user guide in PDF format from the ELSA catalogue record page.
Alternatively, separate documentation for Waves 1 to 4 can be downloaded
from the IFS ELSA documentation page (also in PDF format).
ELSA study description:
IFS ELSA documentation:
ELSA at the Survey Question Bank:
L5050 Guide to English Longitudinal Study of Ageing