MRC National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD)

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The MRC National Survey of Health and Development is the oldest and longest running continually-studied British birth cohort study, having followed a sample of 5,362 men and women born in England, Scotland and Wales since their birth in one week in March, 1946. During their childhood, the main aim of the NSHD was to investigate how the environment at home and at school affected physical and mental development and educational attainment. During adulthood, the main aim was to investigate how childhood health and development and lifetime social circumstances affected their adult health and function and how these change with age. Today, with study members in their seventies, the NSHD offers a unique opportunity to explore the long-term biological and social processes of ageing and how ageing is affected by factors acting across the whole of life.

MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, University College London

Geographic coverage
United Kingdom - England, Scotland, Wales

Start date


Sample type
Birth cohort

Sample details
From an initial maternity survey of 13,687 of all births recorded in England, Scotland and Wales during one week of March, 1946, a class stratified sample of 5,362 singleton babies born to married parents was selected for follow-up. The sample was distributed geographically in proportion to the national population. The study population has not been augmented in any way and now aims to be as far as possible representative of single, native born individuals born to married mothers who are still resident in England, Wales, or Scotland; it cannot therefore be representative of immigrants.

Sample size at recruitment

Sample size at most recent sweep
2,648 - 2014-16 Follow-Up


Age at recruitment

Cohort year of birth


Data access

Genetic data collected

Linkage to administrative data

Additional information


Related Themes
Ageing, biomarkers, birth and perinatal period, cognitive measures, diet and nutrition, education, genetic data, income and socioeconomic status, language and literacy, neighbourhood, physical health, women's health, work and employment, COVID

Also known as the 1946 Birth Cohort

Reference paper

Kuh, D, Wong, A, Shah, I et al. (2016). The MRC National Survey of Health and Development reaches age 70: maintaining participation at older ages in a birth cohort study. European Journal of Epidemiology, 31:1135-1147.

Full list of cohort profile papers available at

Medical Research Council
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