About the study

Understanding Society is the largest longitudinal study of its kind - around 40,000 households have contributed to the Study and their data leads to research which informs policy, shaping the future of the UK.

1 Participants

All the households in the Study are visited by an interviewer or complete an online survey once a year. The questions asked cover a wide range of themes such as family life, education, employment, finance, health and wellbeing. Some questions are asked every year, whilst others are asked occasionally.

2 Data

The collected data are sent to the Understanding Society team where they are processed, checked and coded. Any anomalies in the data are investigated and files are merged to create a single database for each Wave of the study. Anonymised data is exported to create public use files.

3 Research

Researchers in academic and non-academic institutions (including economists, health researchers and social scientists) analyse the Study’s data to draw more accurate conclusions about how UK lives are changing.

4 Policy

Evidence produced by careful research is used by policy-related organisations including government departments, charities and think tanks.

Main study

Covers all ages
The Study covers people of all ages allowing us to understand the experiences of the whole population over time. We have a special questionnaire for children aged 10 - 15 and an adult survey for participants aged 16 and over. 

Continuous data collection
We collect data annually so that short- and long-term changes in people’s lives can be investigated.

The whole household
Information is collected on everyone in a household so that inter-relations between generations, couples and siblings can be explored.

National, regional and local data
All four countries of the UK are included allowing researchers to compare the experiences of people in different places and in different policy contexts.

Understanding Society covers a wide range of social, economic and behavioural factors making it relevant to a wide range of researchers and policy makers.


Ethnic minority boost
The sample sizes of different ethnic minority groups allow the experiences of specific ethnic minority groups to be investigated.

Methodological innovation
The Innovation Panel uses a sample of 1,500 households that have been interviewed every year since 2008. It creates a testing ground for researchers to conduct methodological experiments, improving survey design and longitudinal research.

Biomarkers and genetic data
Data collected by nurses to measure people’s health enable researchers to understand the relationship between social and economic circumstances and health.

Linked administrative data
Study data can be linked (with consent) to administrative records from other sources, building a richer picture of households.


Policy engagement
Our Policy Unit directly supports government departments and devolved administrations to use Understanding Society data for policy purposes.

Training and events
We help researchers make the best use of data through training, support and topic-specific resources.

Support forum
Our User Support Forum provides help for researchers who have specific questions about the Study.