English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA)

Study Code / Acronym
Award Number
Policy Research Programme
Status / Stage
12 January 2000 -
4 January 2024
Duration (calculated)
23 years 11 months
Funding Amount
Funder/Grant study page
Contracted Centre
University of College London
Contracted Centre Webpage
Principal Investigator
Professor Andrew Steptoe
PI Contact
WHO Catergories
High quality epidemiological data
Disease Type
Dementia (Unspecified)

CPEC Review Info
Reference ID39
ResearcherReside Team


Study Code / AcronymELSA
Award Number198/1074
Status / StageActive
Start Date20000112
End Date20240104
Duration (calculated) 23 years 11 months
Funder/Grant study pageNIHR
Contracted CentreUniversity of College London
Contracted Centre Webpage
Funding Amount£12,679,056.00


The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) is a unique and rich resource of information on the dynamics of health, social, wellbeing and economic circumstances in the English population aged 50 and older.

The original sample was drawn from households that had previously responded to the Health Survey for England (HSE) between 1998 and 2001. A pilot study was conducted in 2001 before main fieldwork began in March 2002. The same group of respondents have been interviewed at two-yearly interviews, known as ‘waves’, to measure changes in their health, economic and social circumstances. Younger age groups are replaced or refreshed to retain the panel. The sample has been refreshed using HSE participants in waves 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9.
The ELSA sample has been designed to represent people aged 50 and over, living in private households in England. The sample is based on respondents who participated in the Health Survey for England (HSE). The original sample was selected from three years of HSE: 1998, 1999 and 2001. These years were chosen because they were recent and could provide a sufficiently large sample size. ELSA used the core samples for these years, all of which were nationally representative.

The HSE 1999 sample design also included a boost sample that represented ethnic minorities. Because of funding constraints, it was not possible to follow-up the boost sample and it was discarded. Together these three HSE years contained 23,132 responding households.

Households were removed from the HSE sampling frame for ELSA Wave 1 if it was known that there was no adult of 50 years or older in the household who had agreed to be re-contacted at some time in the future. Individuals in the remaining households provided the basis for the ELSA Wave 1 sample (11,578 households containing 18,813 eligible individuals).


Although new topics can be introduced at different waves, every module has been reviewed to ensure that it will provide data that can measure change over time. This is achieved by repeating some measures exactly, by asking directly about change, and by adopting questions to allow people to update or amend past responses.
The information collected provides data about:
Household and individual demographics
Health – physical and psychosocial
Social care (from Wave 6)
Work and pensions
Income and assets
Cognitive function
Social participation
Effort and Reward (voluntary work and caring)
Walking speed
In addition, certain waves contain one-off modules and questions.