Follow us
Publications Commentary Research People Events News Resources and Videos About IFS
Home Publications English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing

English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing


As part of their research on Savings, pensions and wealth, IFS researchers make use of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) 

The data

The ELSA data is a unique and rich resource of information on the health, social, wellbeing and economic circumstances in the English population aged 50 and older. IFS works in collaboration with the University College London, The University of Manchester, the University of East Anglia and NatCen Social Research to develop the survey. The data themselves are collected by NatCen.

Although respondents give consent for their data to be processed by all the collaborators, only NatCen holds directly identifying information. This is because it is not necessary for the other partners to hold this information. However, because some of the data we hold about you is sometimes very detailed, there is a small risk that you could be identified which is why your data are protected by law.

What we use the data for

The survey data are designed to be used for the investigation of a broad set of topics relevant to understanding the ageing process. These include:

  • health trajectories, disability and healthy life expectancy;
  • the determinants of economic position in older age;
  • the links between economic position, physical health, cognition and mental health;
  • the nature and timing of retirement and post-retirement labour market activity;
  • household and family structure, social networks and social supports;
  • patterns, determinants and consequences of social, civic and cultural participation;

The data are only ever used for non-commercial, independent research.

How long will we keep the data?

The law allows us to keep the data on an ongoing basis for research purposes.

How do we take care of your data?

We hold two levels of data at IFS. Some data is obtained via the UKDS and is made available to any IFS researchers whose research project is approved by the ELSA team. These data are less disclosive than the data that is made available to IFS researchers who are part of the ELSA team (a collaborator). Nevertheless access to these data is restricted to named individuals who have registered their usage at the UKDS.

Access to collaborator data is restricted to researchers who have a direct input into the development of the survey and are listed and named as part of the research project.

All IFS researchers regardless of the data that they have access to are trained in data security, research methods and disclosure control.

All data are stored on a secure network. Network access is restricted by strong individual passwords for all staff. IFS meets internationally and nationally recognised security standards (ISO27001 and Cyber Essentials) on Information Security. IFS researchers follow strict procedures related to these standards. 

Legal bases for using the data

Our lawful basis for processing these data is: legitimate interests 6(1)(f). Our legitimate interest is the conduct of non-commercial, robust social and bio-medical research to inform research, policy and clinical practice.

Because these data contain information about your health, they are classed as Special Category data. Our lawful basis for processing this special category data is:

Article 9(2)j processing is necessary for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes

Your rights

This webpage is designed to inform you how we are using your data.

Because we cannot identify you and we do not have direct control over the data, it is not possible for us to process other requests in respect of your rights. You can withdraw consent for us to use your data at any time and if you would like to do this or exercise any of your other data subject rights please contact NatCen. They will inform us of the outcome of your request and the data we hold about you will be amended accordingly.

If you have complaint you can either contact the IFS Data Protection Officer or contact the Information Commissioner’s Office

Our contact details

If you wish to discuss the way that we use your data, please contact Rowena Crawford or you can write to her at

The Institute for Fiscal Studies
7 Ridgmount Street

If you have concerns over the way that we use your data please contact the data protection officer you should email or write to them at the above address.