Understanding Society

The project

Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) is a longitudinal household study tracking the social and economic circumstances, attitudes, behaviours and health of people living in the UK.

The study is led by a team at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Essex headed by Michaela Benzeval and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council together with a consortium of Government Departments.

Understanding Society has both succeeded and incorporated the British Household Panel Survey, which ran from 1991. Like its predecessor, it collects information directly from all adults (16+) in the study each year. It also has a separate questionnaire for 10-15-year-olds. All those in the original households are followed over time and re-interviewed wherever in the UK they are living, even if they move or split. For example, husbands and wives are followed up even if they separate, and children who grow up and leave home are also followed; and all the adults living with them (e.g. new partners) are also interviewed.

Understanding Society has a range of innovative features including:

  • its size: with 40,000 original households, covering 100,000 individuals it is the largest study of its kind
  • health, biomarker and genetic information, alongside the social, attitudinal and behavioural measures collected
  • an ethnic minority boost sample and specialist ethnicity-related content
  • an Innovation Panel for experiments and methodological research
  • linked administrative data, such as schools / education records, and the possibility to link to area-level information

The data

Data collected from the survey’s thousands of participants is held by the UK Data Service, and is available to researchers for analysis. A range of different datasets, including those that can be linked to neighbourhood data or with linked education data, as well as those covering information from the biological samples are available with different levels of access requirements.

Each year the data from the most recent survey are released alongside revised version of earlier years’ of data, as necessary. The data sets include valuable derived variables such as measures of household income.

User guides for the main data, for the different elements of the study, such as Ethnicity, Health, Biomarkers and Genetics, and the Innovation Panel can be downloaded from the Understanding Society website. Questionnaires are also available there.

My role

I am a member of the Scientific Leadership Team and am responsible for leading and championing the ethnicity strand of the study. I convene the Ethnicity Strand Advisory Committee.

My outputs 

For more of my Understanding Society outputs, activities and resources including podcasts, guides, media coverage etc. just type Understanding Society into Search on this website or click on the Understanding Society tag on the home page.

More information