UCL’s longitudinal studies to survey thousands about impact of COVID-19

News
5 May 2020

The UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) has launched a nationwide survey of the participants of five national longitudinal cohort studies, to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 50,000 people are being asked to complete a special online survey, which will gather insights into how COVID-19 has affected different aspects of their lives, including their physical and mental health and wellbeing, family and relationships, education, work, and finances.

The survey will be sent to participants of all five of the national longitudinal cohort studies run at CLS and the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL (MRC LHA at UCL). These studies have been following large nationally representative groups of people since birth, and their ages currently range from 19 through to 74. The studies included are:

  • Millennium Cohort Study (born 2000-02),
  • Next Steps (born 1989-90),
  • 1970 British Cohort Study,
  • 1958 National Child Development Study, and
  • MRC National Survey of Health and Development (1946 British birth cohort)

The survey will also be sent to members of SABRE, the tri-ethnic Southall and Brent Revisited cohort, also led by MRC LHA at UCL.

The data from the survey will help researchers understand the health, social, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. It will be especially important for understanding how people at different life stages are being affected, and how prior life experiences shape resilience or vulnerability to its effects.  By following participants’ lives into the future, the studies will be able to track the longer-term consequences of the pandemic too.

This special survey will be repeated, so that the implications of COVID-19 can be tracked over time. If you would like to make any suggestions for the content of these follow-ups, please contact CLS. The questionnaire for the first online survey questionnaire can be accessed here.

The information collected through this new survey will be de-identified and made available to researchers, so that it can be analysed alongside the rich data the studies have previously collected about participants’ lives. The first data collection round will take place in May, and the first set of data will be released to researchers in summer 2020. Further data collections will be made available later in the year.

 

Professor Alissa Goodman, CLS Director, said:

“The outbreak of COVID-19 has meant big and sudden changes to how we all live our lives. This new survey will be especially powerful because it is being issued in nationally representative studies that have already been tracking people from childhood and across the whole of their lives.

“The studies included cover people at a wide range of ages and life stages, from early adulthood to older age. The survey will therefore give us unparalleled insights into the ways the pandemic has impacted people of different ages and backgrounds differentially, and will help researchers and policymakers understand which groups have been particularly affected, and how to support them.

“As we continue to follow our participants into the future, beyond the pandemic, we will be able to see how an event as significant as this may shape people’s lives in the longer term.”

 

Professor Nish Chaturvedi, Director of MRC LHA at UCL added:

“We are particularly pleased to include the tri-ethnic Southall and Brent Revisited cohorts in this web survey. Together with the ethnically diverse populations in the Millennium Cohort Study and Next Steps, this will provide valuable information on ethnic differences in susceptibility to COVID-19.”

 

Notes:

  1. The new COVID-19 survey has been developed and is led by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), UCL Institute of Education, in collaboration with the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL (MRC LHA at UCL).
  2. The study will be issued to those participants in all four of CLS’s cohort studies who have provided an email address:
    • the National Child Development Study (following people born across Great Britain in March 1958, since birth and up to age 62)
    • the 1970 British Cohort Study (following people born across Great Britain in April 1970 since birth and up to age 50)
    • Next Steps (following people born in 1989-90 who were in Year 9 in school in England in 2002-3, and who have been surveyed since age 13/14 and up to age 30)
    • Millennium Cohort Study (following people born in 2000-02 in the UK since 9 months old, and up to age 20. The survey will be issued to cohort members and their parents).
  1. The data collected through this special survey from participants in CLS’s four studies will be made available to researchers though the UK Data Service in summer 2020. For further information see the CLS website.
  2. The study has been developed in close collaboration with the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL (MRC LHA at UCL) who runs the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) and the Southall and Brent Revisited (SABRE) cohorts. For more information, see the Unit’s website.
  3. The data collected through this special survey from the NSHD and SABRE participants will be made available through the MRC LHA at UCL website in autumn 2020.
  4. The survey has been designed to cover the same core questions in each of the six studies, with minor variations across studies where this has been necessary to preserve longitudinal continuity. To enable cross cohort comparisons, a combined data set will also be made available for research, allowing the results from the CLS and MRC LHA at UCL cohorts to be analysed together.
  5. The study has also been developed in collaboration with King’s College London, Twins UK team, and the organisations who are running the COVID-19 symptoms tracker app. Survey participants will be asked to download the symptoms tracker app, so that information from the app can be linked to information held by the studies. The linked data will greatly enrich the information available to researchers for understanding the lifetime risk factors for COVID-19 and its symptoms, and in the future it will enable the long-term health and other outcomes of those experiencing COVID-19 and its symptoms to be understood.
  6. At least one further survey will be carried out during the pandemic. Some questions will be repeated, while others will be added to enable greater depth in some areas. If you have any suggestions for the content for the next stages, please contact CLS.
  7. The study design was developed in consultation with members of the CLS Scientific Advisory Network, and in collaboration with a network of 16 UK and International Longitudinal Population Studies in a process facilitated by the Wellcome Trust. The Wellcome Trust Covid-19 Questionnaire includes a Core set and a pool of recommended questions about the health, behavioural, social, economic and environmental impact of Covid-19. For more information, contact Rachel Miles (r.miles@wellcome.ac.uk).
  8. The Centre for Longitudinal Studies is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The Medical Research Council provides core funding for the MRC LHA at UCL and the SABRE study is funded by the British Heart Foundation.

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