ELSA Overview

ELSA is a panel survey of people aged 50 and over and their partners, living in private households in England. Its main goal is to provide an interdisciplinary data resource on health, economic position and quality of life as people age. The survey elicits information about demographics, income, assets, health, cognition, family structure and connections, health care use and costs, housing, job status and history, expectations, and insurance.
Sampling Frame

The ELSA sample is a nationally representative sample of the population aged 50 years and older, living in private households in England. The initial sample was recruited in 2002/03 from consenting households that had participated in the Health Survey for England (HSE) in 1998, 1999, and 2001.

Age Eligibility
Age 50 and older
People Interviewed per Household
One person per household
Spouse Inclusion
Spouse of any age
Nationally Representative
Institutional Representation
Respondents followed into institutions

Data Collection

The ELSA core interview is carried out in English every two years through face-to-face interviews using computer-assisted person interviewing (CAPI) since 2002.

Interview Schedule

In addition to the core interview, ELSA also collects a number of other types of data.

End of Life Interview

Conducted at Waves 2, 3, 4, and 6 among a sample of family members or carers of deceased respondents.

Life History Interview

Conducted once on a subset of the ELSA sample after Wave 3.

Self-Completion Survey

General self-completion survey provided to respondents at each wave. Additional health and work self-completion surveys provided to sub-samples at Wave 3. Additional sexual activity and relationship self-completion survey at Wave 6 and 8.

Health Assessment

Conducted at Waves 2, 4 and 6 for all respondents via qualified nurse assessment. Conducted at Wave 8 for a sub-sample via nurse assessment.

Blood-Based Biomarkers

Venous blood was drawn during the nurse assessments.

Cognitive Assesment

The Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) was conducted between Wave 8 and Wave 9 on respondents aged 65 and older.

Genetic Data

Genome wide association study (GWAS) was performed in 2013-2014 of 7,597 ELSA participants of European ancestry using the Illumina Omni 2.5-8 chip.


The ELSA Wave 1 sample included 11,578 households containing 18,813 eligible individuals and their spouses. Since then, the ELSA sample has been refreshed at waves 3, 4, 6, and 7. When a refreshment sample is drawn, households from HSE are selected for ELSA if at least one HSE interview was conducted with an age eligible respondent who agreed to be re-contacted.

Sample Size by Cohort

Data Linkages

ELSA has included linkages to administrative data since Wave 1. Respondents are asked for permission to link to official records of National Insurance contributions, welfare and benefit receipt, details of any tax credits they may be claiming, Hospital Episode Statistics and NHS Central Register (mortality) and cancer registration data.

via Office for National Statistics
Healthcare Utlization
via Hospital Episode Statistics
via Public Health England
via National Insurance Records
via Department of Work and Pensions

Data Access

Most public access ELSA data can be downloaded from the UK Data Service (UKDS). There are three levels of access available from UKDS: 1) End User License (EUL), 2) Special License (SL), 3) Secure Access (SA). The EUL-level data are anonymized and only requires registration with UKDS. The SL-level data include variables posing slightly higher risk of disclosure and require additional approval. The SA-level data are considered sensitive and are only available via a Secure Lab or encrypted remote access.

  • Core interview
  • End-of-life interview
  • Life history interview
  • Self-completion survey
  • Health assessment
  • HCAP
Available via:
UK Data Service

Available via:
European Genome-phenome Archive (EGA)

Polygenic Score Data

Available via request from:
ELSA team

Linked economic data

Available by request from:
ELSA Linked Data Access Committee (ELDAC)

Linked health data

Available by request from:
NatCen ELSA team

Harmonized Datasets

The Gateway to Global Aging Data has created several user-friendly datasets based on ELSA data designed to allow researchers to conduct cross-wave and cross-study analysis.

Harmonized ELSA
A dataset of research-ready variables derived from the core interviews, self-completion assessments, and health assessments of Waves 1 - 8.
Harmonized ELSA Life History
An age-sequenced dataset of research-ready variables derived from the Wave 3 Life History Interview.
Harmonized ELSA End-of-Life
A dataset of research-ready variables derived from the end-of-life interviews of Waves 2, 3, 4, and 6.
Coming soon
Harmonized ELSA HCAP
A dataset of research-ready variables derived from the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) conducted between Wave 8 and Wave 9.
Coming soon
Harmonized Contextual Data
A dataset of contextual variables capturing important pension and long-term care institutional settings and PM2.5 estimates of pollution exposure.
Coming soon