Understanding Society is a unique and valuable study that captures important information every year about the social and economic circumstances and attitudes of people living in 40,000 UK households. It also collects additional health information from around 20,000 of the people who take part. Information from the longitudinal survey is primarily used by academics, researchers and policy makers in their work, but the findings are of interest to a much wider group of people including those working in the third sector, health practitioners, business, the media and the general public.

About Understanding Society

The Understanding Society scientific leadership team is based at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex. The British Household Panel Study (BHPS) which ISER has been running since 1991 is incorporated into the study.

The aims of the study are to collect data about each sample member and household at annual intervals in order to:

  • track frequent changes in the lives of people, and the factors that are associated with them
  • provide unique information on issues such as child poverty or disability, on factors that influence key life transitions, such as marriage and divorce, and on the effects of earlier life circumstances on later outcomes
  • support research relevant to the formation and evaluation of policy.

Key features of the study that reflect its scientific rationale, and which can be exploited to generate major innovations in scientific research, include:

  • a full age range, and providing a unique look at behaviours and transitions in mid-life
  • broad, interdisciplinary topic coverage
  • a significant sample boost for key ethnic minority groups and specially designed questionnaire supplements, which will provide the base for the first ever significant longitudinal analysis of minority experiences in the UK
  • biomedical measures and samples to enable new research on the social determinants and impacts of health in a household context.