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ELSA: Study 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.
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||All eligible residents of household|
|Spouse Inclusion||Spouse of any age|
|Institutional Representation||Respondents followed into institutions|
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.
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 with 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 50% sub-sample and at Wave 9 for the remaining 50% 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.|
|Covid-19 Interview||Covid-19-related information was collected among all respondents at two timepoints through online surveys and by phone. The first round began in June 2020 and ended in July 2020. The second round began in November 2020 and ended in December 2020.|
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, 7 and 9. 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.
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.
|Mortality||Office for National Statistics|
|Healthcare Utlization||Hospital Episode Statistics|
|Cancer||Public Health England|
|Pension||National Insurance Records|
|Benefits||Department of Work and Pensions|
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 require 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.
Life history interview
UK Data Service
European Genome-phenome Archive (EGA)
|Polygenic Score Data||
Available via request from:
|Linked economic data||
Available by request from:
ELSA Linked Data Access Committee (ELDAC)
|Linked health data||
Available by request from:
NatCen ELSA team
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 - 9.||Create using Gateway Stata Creation Code|
|Harmonized ELSA Life History||An age-sequenced dataset of research-ready variables derived from the Wave 3 Life History Interview.||Create using Gateway Stata Creation Code|
|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.||Create using Gateway Stata Creation Code|
|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|
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