The economic and social value of health from childhood to later life


Using longitudinal data collected from across more than seven decades, this project examines the relationship between people’s physical and mental health and their educational and occupational outcomes, both over the lifecourse and between generations.

Research details

Project title

The economic and social value of health from childhood to later life

Project lead

Professor Alice Sullivan


Physical health, mental health, education, and employment


July 2018 – September 2021


Health Foundation – visit the project page on the Health Foundation website.


It is well established that where people start in life can cast a long shadow over their educational and employment prospects, and consequently their physical and mental health. However, what is less well known is how health, both physical and mental, impacts on important transitional periods in people’s lives, from school entrance to higher education participation, from finding a job to getting married.

With the full repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic still not fully realised, understanding the relationship between people’s physical and mental health, their employment and finances, has never been more pressing.

Through comparisons between different nationally representative cohorts, born between 1946 and 2000-02, this project investigates whether the links between people’s physical and mental health, their educational and occupational prospects, and their family and social lives have changed across time and between generations.

  • How do behavioural problems in early childhood impact on later educational and occupational outcomes?
  • What are the risk factors for early natural menopause, and, how does the condition affect women’s labour market participation?
  • And, how much has the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing mental health problems across society, and how has this affected people’s finances?

Given the major changes in society since the second world war – from increasing inequalities in wealth and income to the convergence of gender roles, from the decrease in rates of smoking to the marked rise in the prevalence of obesity and depression – this project also looks to shed light on the potential risk factors driving poor physical and mental health.

Using data from the Medical Research Council’s National Survey of Health and Development (1946 birth cohort), the National Child Development Study, the 1970 British Cohort Study, and the Millennium Cohort Study, the research utilises rich information collected from study members across their lives, including self-reported data and objective measures of health. It also uses information collected from those study members who took part in a series of web surveys during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scientific publications

Bryson, A, Conti, G, Hardy, R, Peycheva, D, Sullivan, A (2022)
The consequences of early menopause and menopause symptoms for labour market participation
Social Science and Medicine
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Blanchflower D, Bryson A (2021)
Taking the Pulse of Nations: a Biometric Measure of Well-being
National Bureau of Economic Research (working paper)
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Parsons S, Sullivan A, Fitzsimons E, Ploubidis G (2021)
The role of parental and child physical and mental health on behavioural and emotional adjustment in mid-childhood: a comparison of two generations of British children born 30 years apart
Longitudinal and Life Course Studies
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Parsons, S, Sullivan, A, Moulton, V, Fitzsimons, E, Ploubidis, G (2021)
The relationship between child behaviour problems at school entrance and teenage vocabulary acquisition: a comparison of two generations of British children born 30 years apart
British Educational Research Journal
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Parsons, S, Bryson, A, Sullivan, A (2021)
Teenage Conduct Problems: A Lifetime of Disadvantage in the Labour Market?
IZA Institute of Labour Economics (working paper)
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Blanchflower, D, Bryson, A (2021)
Unemployment Disrupts Sleep: evidence from the United States and Europe
Economics and Human Biology
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Blanchflower, D (2021)
Biden, COVID and Mental Health in America
National Bureau of Economic Research (working paper)
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Blanchflower, D, Bryson, A (2021)
The consequences of chronic pain in mid-life: evidence from the National Child Development Survey
QSS working paper series
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Piper, A, Blanchflower, D, Bryson, A (2021)
Does pain lead to job loss? A Panel Study for Germany
National Bureau of Economic Research (working paper)
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Peycheva, D, Sullivan, A, Hardy, R, Bryson, A, Conti, G, Ploubidis, G (2021)
Risk factors for early natural menopause: evidence from the 1958 and 1970 British Cohorts
medRxiv (pre-print)
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Moulton, V, Sullivan, A, Patalay, P, Fitzsimons, E, Henderson, M, Bann, D, Ploubidis, G
Association between psychological distress trajectories from adolescence to midlife and mental health during the pandemic: evidence from two British birth cohorts (2021)
medRxiv (pre-print)
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Relevant studies


Alice Sullivan Professor of Sociology and Head of Research for the Social Research Institute

Phone: 020 7612 6661

Alice’s research interests are focussed on social and educational inequalities and the intergenerational transmission of advantage and disadvantage.

Sam Parsons Research Fellow

Phone: 020 7612 6882

Sam has a long history of producing research based on the British Birth Cohorts, from the antecedents and consequences of poor basic skills in adult life, to more recent research focusing on poorer outcomes for children with Special Education Needs, the gendered occupational occupations of teenagers and the long-term advantages for men and women who attended a private school and/or an elite university.

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

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.

Emla Fitzsimons Professor of Economics and Director of the Millennium Cohort Study

Phone: 020 7331 5129

Emla is the Director of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, a longitudinal birth cohort study following children born at the turn of the new century. Her research is focused on the development of human capital throughout the life course, and in particular how experiences and circumstances in early life and childhood affect causally the acquisition of skills later on.

Gabriella Conti Co-Investigator of the National Child Development Study

David Bann Associate Professor in Population Health, Strategic lead of social science genetics

Phone: 020 7911 5426

David is an epidemiologist with broad interests in population health. David was previously co-Investigator of the 1958 British birth cohort study (National Child Development Study), and is now strategic lead of social science genetics at CLS. He has responsibility for scientific aspects of genetic-related work at CLS (including data management, storage, access systems, research and collaborations).

Vanessa Moulton Senior Research Fellow

Phone: 020 7612 6288

Vanessa is a psychologist, with a strong interest in multidisciplinary social science. Her research interests include using longitudinal and secondary data analysis to examine the influence of the earlier life course on children’s and adult mental health, cognitive, educational and socio-economic outcomes. In addition, Vanessa co-coordinates the CLS cohort training workshops and webinars.



Darina Peycheva Survey Manager

Phone: 020 7911 5427

Darina assists in the various aspects of the development and implementation of Next Steps. This primarily involves fieldwork management and liaison with the fieldwork contractor. She also helps with the administrative records linkage applications for the four CLS cohort studies and liaises with a number of government departments and non-governmental bodies.

Darina’s research interests relate to survey methodology and the aspects of survey process quality, as well as social epidemiology and the life course approach to health.

Alex Bryson Professor of Quantitative Social Science, UCL Social Research Institute

Rebecca Hardy Professor of Epidemiology and Medical Statistics at UCL & Director of CLOSER

Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Social Research Institute

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL