About this study
New report on findings from second wave of interviews now available.
Understanding Society is the world's largest longitudinal social science study, interviewing around 100,000 respondents each year. Launched in 2009, it's already delivering high-quality, world-leading data on the social and economic circumstances of households from across the UK. We interview respondents each year, creating a rich record of how people's lives, behaviours and attitudes change over time: following teenagers through their education, into the workplace and family life; understanding how families respond to unemployment; shedding light on how our sense of community - local, regional and national - responds to the challenges of globalisation and devolution.
Understanding Society is pioneering in its interdisciplinary focus and methodological approach. The study has multiple research objectives, collecting information on topics from illicit and risky behaviours to social, political and religious participation; measures of respondents' cognitive ability to their environmental attitudes and behaviours. In addition a significant sub-sample also provide us with physical measures of their health and many also consent to provide us with access to their administrative health, education and economic records. This allows researchers to understand in unprecedented detail how different aspects of an individual's life impacts on the others.
Understanding Society is arguably one of the most technically demanding social science studies in the world today. NatCen is proud to have been trusted to deliver the study.
Potential policy impact
Understanding Society is already making a significant contribution to the national debate. Its early findings have been featured in national and international media, have been pored over by academic researchers and provide a rich set of data about how the UK is now and how previous policy interventions have impacted on our lives.
A nationally representative sample of 40,000 households was selected in 2009. Interviewers now contact each of these households every year and interview all members of the household. Adults are interviewed either face-to-face or over the phone using Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI). Respondents aged 10-15 fill in a paper self-completion questionnaire.
Data are collected in 'waves', each lasting two years. The waves overlap so that respondents are interviewed annually. Before a wave is launched, methods of data collection, questions and experiments are conducted on the Innovation Panel, a sub-sample of the overall Understanding Society sample.