Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Survey & British Household Panel Survey (UKHLS)

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Understanding Society is a largescale longitudinal survey of approximately 40,000 households across the United Kingdom. As a multi-topic household survey, the purpose of Understanding Society is to understand social and economic change in Britain at the household and individual levels by capturing important information about the social and economic circumstances, attitudes and behaviours and health of people living in thousands of households. The Understanding Society study is a successor to the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), with the BHPS sample forming part of Understanding Society from Wave 2 onwards.

Institute for Social & Economic Research (ISER), University of Essex

Geographic coverage - Nations
England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland

Geographic coverage - Regions

Start date
Understanding Society: 2009
BHPS: 1991


Sample type
Household panel survey

Sample details
The UKHLS began in 2009 with a representative probability sample of households. In addition to this General Population Sample (GPS), an Ethnic Minority Boost (EMB) sample was recruited to provide at least 1,000 adults from each of five groups: Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Caribbean, and African from Wave 1 (UKHLS). A further Immigrant & Ethnic Minority Boost Sample (IEMB) of around 3,000 households was added at Wave 6. From Wave 2, over 6,000 participants from the BHPS sample joined the UKHLS.

Adult household members (age 16 or older) are interviewed and complete a self-completion questionnaire, and household members aged 10-15 years are asked to complete a short self-completion youth questionnaire. Children become eligible for a full interview once they reach the age of 16. New household members at each wave are recruited to the study – detailed following rules are available in the UKHLS User Guide.

Sample size at recruitment
39,802 households (Wave 1 Understanding Society)

Sample size at most recent sweep
36,559 individuals (Wave 6 Understanding Society)


Age at recruitment
11 years +

Cohort year of birth


Data access
UK Data Service

Genetic data collected

Linkage to administrative data
Education data
Environmental data
Health data
Income/tax and benefits
Social media data

Additional information


Includes all waves of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS). Northern Ireland included in the BHPS after 2001.

Related themes
Covid-19 data collection, Biomarkers, Cognitive measures, Diet and nutrition, Education, Ethnicity and race, Sexuality and gender identity, Housing, Socioeconomic status and deprivation, Language and literacy, Loneliness and social isolation, Migration and immigration, Neighbourhood, Personality, Physical health assessment, Political and social attitudes, Digital technology and social media, Victimisation and life events, Reproductive health, Work and employment, Parenting and family, Sleep problems, Social care - receipt, Social care - provision, Social care - need

Reference paper

Buck N, McFall S. (2012). Understanding Society: design overview. Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 3, 5–17.

User guides also available.

Economic and Social Research Council
Department for Work and Pensions
Department for Transport
Department of Health and Social Care
Department for Education
Department for Culture Media & Sport
Department for Communities & Local Government
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Scottish Government
Welsh Assembly Government
Food Standards Agency

Large Facilities Capital Fund
Mental health measures timeline

Sweep name:

Cohort member age:

Data collection period:


Physical health measures:

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