Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


ELSA Covid-19 Study

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The ELSA COVID-19 Substudy aims to investigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the older population in England.

The study has been awarded funding from the Economic and Social Research Council via the UK Research and Innovation Covid-19 Rapid Response call, to collect data from more than 10,000 of our ELSA participants, all aged 50 years and over, asking them about their experiences of the COVID-19 crisis.

The first wave of data collection took place in June/July 2020 and the second wave started on 4th November 2020 and will be completed by mid-December 2020. 

Data from the first wave of the ELSA COVID-19 Substudy is now available to download via the UK Data Service.


The study aims to address the following questions:

1. What is the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis on health, access to health and social care, financial circumstances, mental wellbeing, and social activity in the older population in England? This will be addressed by a survey of the complete ELSA cohort (wave 1 from June 2020).

2. What changes take place in mental and physical health, finances, and social experience as this period of vulnerability, isolation, and return to social contact evolves? This will be investigated by a repeat assessment in the autumn (wave 2 from November 2020).

However, many other questions will be answerable with these data. When combined with current and future ELSA data, these data will be used extensively by the ELSA team and other researchers to examine the many immediate and long term impacts of COVID-19.


The data are collected by a combination of internet and telephone assessments. All ELSA sample members (around 10,000 individuals) were contacted by post and invited to take part in Wave 1 via an online survey. This communication highlighted a £10 incentive for participation.

Those who are unable or unwilling to participate are contacted by the NatCen telephone unit carry out Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews (CATI) over a period of 3 to 4 weeks. The CATI has the same content as the internet survey but is adapted for telephone administration, where necessary.

The questionnaire takes around 30 minutes to complete.

Principal Investigator: Professor Andrew Steptoe 

ELSA Project Manager: Kate Coughlin (k.coughlin@ucl.ac.uk)

Collaborators: Institute for Fiscal Studies, National Centre for Social Research and the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge