Our online bibliography is an excellent resource for finding publications based on data from BCS70. It includes over 5,000 publications which use data from our four studies, and is searchable by study, year, author, journal name, title and abstract.
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?
Since the birth survey in 1970 there have been nine ‘sweeps’ of all cohort members. The most recent sweep was at age 46 and the data collected are available now from the UK Data Service. Click on a sweep below to learn more about the information collected. Due to the pandemic, the next sweep, which had been due to get underway in 2020, had to be postponed. We hope to launch this sweep in summer 2021.
Data from Waves 1 and 2 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Self-Completion questionnaire for BCS Age 42 Sweep
Authors: Centre for Longitudinal Studies
Date published: 1 May 2012
PDF: 433,6 KB
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
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].
Phone: 020 7612 6107
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.