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English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA)

Providing crucial evidence about our ageing population

Man at allotment

ELSA follows the lives of people in England aged 50 and over. It looks at the quality of life among older people and explores the dynamic relationships between health and functioning, social networks and participation, and economic position as people plan for, move into and progress beyond retirement.

About ELSA

People in Britain are living longer and remaining in good health until a later age than ever before. This is a huge achievement for our society but there are inequalities in the distribution of these benefits as well as in socioeconomic outcomes and social participation in later life.  The increasing proportion of older people in our population is a profound challenge and opportunity for individuals, families and policy makers.

Since it began in 2002, surveys have been carried out every two years. These include a face-to-face survey interview each wave and the collection of a wide range of bio-measures by nurses at regular intervals. Fieldwork is currently underway on Wave 9.

New findings published in October 2018  

You can download the full Wave 8 report 'The dynamics of aging' from the ELSA website. Below you can read an overview of our findings in ELSA’s three core areas of focus: economic, social and health.

Key findings

  • State pension age increases and the circumstances of older women: The State Pension Age (SPA) for women increased from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2018. The analysis found a modest increase in the percentage of women aged 60 to 63 in work following the changes, but this did not appear to relate to the financial constraints imposed by having no pension. The authors suggest the rise in employment may instead be about a signalling of what the new ‘appropriate’ age is for retirement.
  • Area and its relation to social inequality and well-being in later life: Older people in rural areas (hamlets and villages) and less deprived areas did better in terms of a range of social and well-being outcomes. Social and civic engagement, volunteering and cultural engagement decrease with rising levels of deprivation and in more urban areas.
  • Determinants and consequences of falls: Falls in older age present a significant public health challenge. The consequences of falls were substantial: mobility, physical activity and daily activities were reduced following a fall and well-being was also lower. Risk factors included chronic health conditions, not living with a partner, depressive symptoms, loneliness, difficulties with daily living – some of which are potentially open to policy interventions including physical activity programmes and those aimed at reducing social disconnection. 

Method

We have selected people aged 50 and over who previously took part in the Health Survey for England to take part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. We interview these people every two years.

The advantage of interviewing the same people who took part in Health Survey for England is that we can combine existing data with new data to learn much more about people's health, economic position and quality of life over time.

Data and full documentation is available for research community up to Wave 8 at the UK Data Service.

Other related studies

Previous report: Wave 7 - 'What does ELSA tell us about growing older?'

Living and caring? An investigation of the experiences of older carers

Understanding multiple disadvantage in old age

Read the reports from 2002-2018 on the ELSA website

Data and full documentation at the UK Data Service