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Understanding Society

About the cohort

Start date: 2009
Age at recruitment: All
Sample size at recruitment: 40,000 households (100,000 individuals)
Estimated current sample size: 31,000 households (78,000 individuals)

Understanding Society began in 2009 and is a unique and valuable academic 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.

Understanding Society is part of CLOSER (Cohort & Longitudinal Studies Enhancement Resources) which aims to maximise the use, value and impact of the UK’s longitudinal studies.

Core funders

  • British Heart Foundation 
  • Wellcome Trust 
  • World Cancer Research Fund 
  • Medical Research Council



Principal Investigator: Professor Nick Buck


Understanding Society
Institute for Social and Economic Research
University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park



Page last updated: 13 Mar 2015


  • Gender: Male, Female
  • Sample size: 100,000-499,999
  • Age: 10 to 19, 20 to 39, 40 to 59, 60 to 100
  • Anthropometric: Height, Weight, Waist circumference, Blood pressure
  • Physical: Respiratory
  • Psychological: Mental health, Cognitive function
  • Lifestyle: Smoking, Physical activity, Dietary habits, Alcohol
  • Socio-economic: Occupation, Finances, Family circumstances, Housing, Education, Ethnic group, Marital status, Social support
  • Biological samples: Blood