1970 British Cohort Study

The 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) is following the lives of around 17,000 people born in England, Scotland and Wales in a single week of 1970.

What’s in the study?

Over the course of cohort members’ lives, BCS70 has collected information on health, physical, educational and social development, and economic circumstances among other factors.

BCS70 has become a vital source of evidence on key policy areas such as social mobility, education, training and employment, and economic insecurity.

What has the study found?

This invaluable study has resulted in important findings at each stage of life.

Research based on BCS70 has shown the importance of reading for pleasure for children’s cognitive development, especially in vocabulary and spelling, but also in maths.

Findings from the cohort members’ school years continue to inform the education debates of today. The study has revealed that grammar schools have been no more successful than comprehensives at helping to ensure pupils gained a university degree.

Today, research using BCS70 has shown a strong link between childhood disadvantage and adult mental wellbeing for this generation.

Who funds the study?

BCS70 is core funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The most recent sweep, at age 46, received additional funding from the Medical Research Council and and the British Heart Foundation.

BCS70 sweeps

Since the birth survey in 1970 there have been nine ‘sweeps’ of all cohort members. Click on a sweep below to learn more about the information collected. The latest sweep, at age 51, is now underway.

COVID-19 survey and data

Data from all three waves of our survey of five national longitudinal cohort studies, including BCS70, are now available. Find out about the topics covered, response and how to access the data.

Find out more

Sub studies

In addition to the main BCS70 sweeps there have been a number of sub studies. You can find out more about these on the following pages:

50 stories in 50 weeks

In April 2020 the 1970 British Cohort Study and our study participants turned 50!

To commemorate this huge milestone, we celebrated BCS70’s contribution to science and society by publishing 50 stories over 50 weeks on the CLS website and on social media.

Discover the stories

Latest from BCS70

PODCASTS

Podcast series: 50 Years of Life in Britain

25 June 2020

Our podcast series, ‘50 Years of Life in Britain’ explores the contribution BCS70 participants have made to improving British science and society. The six-part series tells their story, and charts the first five decades of the study.

News

Research round-up – April to June 2021

24 August 2021 Researchers from around the world have been using CLS study data to tackle important questions. Here is a round-up of nearly 100 new pieces of research that we’ve added to the CLS bibliography between April and June 2021.
News

Over a third of adults have multiple health problems in midlife

28 July 2021 More than one in three British adults are suffering from two or more chronic health conditions in middle age, such as recurrent back problems, mental ill-health, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high-risk drinking, according to UCL researchers.
News

COVID-19 antibody test data from CLS studies now available

26 July 2021 Researchers can now access new information on the presence of COVID-19 antibodies among more than 10,000 study members taking part in the four cohort studies run by the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS).
News

Children with behavioural problems at age five may need extra literacy support at school

21 July 2021 Children with severe conduct and hyperactivity problems at school entrance tend to gain lower scores in vocabulary tests during adolescence, according to a new study.

Cohort profile

This cohort profile provides information about the background to the study as well as its sample size, content, and findings.

Elliott, J and Shepherd, P (2006)

Cohort Profile: 1970 British birth cohort (BCS70)
International Journal of Epidemiology, 35(4), 836-843

Read the full paper

Recent scientific publications

Sullivan, A, Parsons, S, Green, F, Wiggins, R.D and Ploubidis, G
Elite universities, fields of study and top salaries: Which degree will make you rich?
British Educational Research Jounal, 2018, Volume 44, Issue 4
Read the full paper
Matei, V.P., Mihailescu, A.I., Diaconescu, L.V., Purnichi, T, Grigoras, R and Popa-Velea, O
Depression in young adults diagnosed with cancer – an analysis of the outcomes of 1970 British Cohort Study
Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 2018, Volume 109, p118
Read the full paper

Special features of this study

Sample design

BCS70 follows the lives of all people born in England, Scotland and Wales in one particular week in 1970. Those born in Northern Ireland were included in the birth sweep, but were not followed up in any of the subsequent sweeps.

During the birth sweep, information was collected about 16,568 babies born in England, Scotland and Wales, and a further 628 born in Northern Ireland who were not followed up subsequently. At ages 5, 10 and 16, the sample was augmented with those who had been born overseas in the relevant week and subsequently moved to Great Britain. This resulted in 79 new recruits at age 5, 294 at age 10 and 65 at 16.

Biomedical data

The Age 46 sweep has collected extensive information on health to support biomedical and biosocial research.

The sweep collected objective measures of anthropometry (height, weight, body fat, waist and hip circumference), blood pressure/pulse, grip strength, balance, and blood samples (for analysis of cholesterol and hba1c, storage for future analyses and DNA extraction). In addition, participants wore an ActivPal device for 7 days to measure physical and sedentary activity and completed an online questionnaire about their diet.

Health has been a continual focus of BCS70, but the Age 46 sweep was the first time that objective measures of health have been collected since childhood. The data collected will provide a thorough assessment of health in mid-life, and when combined with data from previous sweeps will allow for detailed examinations of the predictors of mid-life health status. Cross cohort comparisons will be possible with the 1958 National Child Development Study biomedical sweep.

Children of cohort members

The Age 34 sweep had an emphasis on parenting and children, with cohort members’ own offspring taking part in the sweep.

At age 34, a randomly allocated 1 in 2 sample of cohort members completed an additional interview module and a paper self-completion questionnaire about each of their children.

Cohort members’ children aged over 10 also completed their own questionnaires and a series of cognitive assessments, which allows for the study of transfer of ability from one generation to the next.

Cognitive ability

BCS70 has measured cognition since childhood, allowing researchers to track cognitive development through life.

It is valuable for studying factors associated with differing levels of cognition, trajectories of cognitive ability, and the effect of cognitive ability on other aspects of life.

Cognition was first measured at age 5 and then throughout childhood at ages 10 and 16. In adulthood, basic skills assessments were conducted at age 34, and a vocabulary assessment was conducted at age 42. The Age 46 sweep included assessments of memory, executive function and concentration.

Social mobility

BCS70 is a leading source of evidence on social mobility, with information on work and income across the life course.

During the childhood sweeps, information was collected about parental occupations and income. Cohort members have themselves provided detailed information about their own occupations and income during each adult survey, making BCS70 ideal for studying how people move up and down the social ladder.

Similar information collected in the other cohort studies gives researchers the opportunity to examine how social mobility has changed between generations.

Linked administrative data

In the Age 42 Sweep, cohort members were asked for consent to link health and economic data to the survey data. Cohort members could agree to both, one or neither.

Some data have been linked and are available to access through the UK Data Service:

Health
Linked health data are available from Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) in England for 1997-2017 (accident and emergency, admitted patient care, critical care, and outpatient). Linked health data from Scottish Medical Records (SMR) for 2000-2015 (outpatient, inpatient and day care, maternity, Prescribing Information System) will be available soon.

Future data linkage
We are currently applying to refresh the HES linkages which will include COVID-19 data and plan to also refresh the SMR linkages.

We are pursuing linkages to records kept by the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue & Customs, including about benefit claims, participation in employment programmes, jobs, earnings, tax and National Insurance.

 

Popular survey documentation

BCS70 Age 42 Self-Completion Questionnaire

Self-Completion questionnaire for BCS Age 42 Sweep

Authors: Centre for Longitudinal Studies
Date published: 1 May 2012
PDF: 433,6 KB

Download

BCS70 Age 42 Main Stage Questionnaire

BCS Age 42 Paper representation of the main stage questionnaire with routing

Authors: Centre for Longitudinal Studies
Date published: 1 May 2012
PDF: 1,67 MB

Download

Data access

We’ve published guidance to help users find out what’s in our data.

Most BCS70 data are available through the UK Data Service. Visit the UK Data Service study page for BCS70 [SN 200001].

Principal Investigator

George Ploubidis Professor of Population Health and Statistics, Research Director and Principal Investigator of the National Child Development Study and 1970 British Cohort Study

Phone: 020 7612 6107
Email: g.ploubidis@ucl.ac.uk

George is Professor of Population Health and Statistics at the UCL Social Research Institute and currently holds the posts of Research Director and Principal Investigator of the National Child Development Study and 1970 British Cohort Study at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies. Prior to joining UCL he held posts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Cambridge. George is a multidisciplinary quantitative social scientist and a longitudinal population surveys methodologist. His main research interests relate to socioeconomic and demographic determinants of health over the life course and the mechanisms that underlie generational differences in health and mortality. His methodological work in longitudinal surveys focusses on applications for handling missing data, causal inference and measurement error.

Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Social Research Institute

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL

Email: clsfeedback@ucl.ac.uk