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Monthly data on the impact of COVID-19 on UK population to be made available to researchers

Article dated: 24 April 2020

The UK Data Service is working with the Understanding Society team to make monthly data on how the UK population is dealing with the COVID-19 emergency available to researchers.

Understanding Society is launching a monthly web survey on the experiences and reactions of the UK population to the pandemic. Funded by the ESRC and the Health Foundation, the survey will be an integral part of Understanding Society: the UK Household Longitudinal Study and will provide researchers with vital evidence on the changing impact of the pandemic on individuals, families and communities.

The processing team at the UK Data Service is committed to releasing this data to researchers in a timely manner, providing valuable longitudinal data at a time of national crisis. Researchers will be able to link the data from this web survey to answers respondents have given in previous (and future) waves of the annual Understanding Society survey.

A total of 42,000 Understanding Society adult participants from across the UK have been invited to take part in the first wave of the new COVID-19 web survey. Field work will be completed on April 29 and data should be available to researchers from the UK Data Service by late May.

The first wave of the Covid-19 questionnaire covers:

  • coronavirus symptoms and test results
  • management of long-term health conditions
  • caring responsibilities
  • loneliness
  • employment and financial situation
  • home schooling
  • food and alcohol consumption
  • exercise and smoking
  • mental wellbeing

Each survey takes around 20 minutes to complete. Some survey content will be repeated each month, and some will be different, depending on how the coronavirus situation develops in the UK.

You can find out more about the contents of the questionnaire on the Understanding Society website.

Louise Corti, Service Director for Collections Development and Data Publishing at the UK Data Service said: "As the COVID-19 pandemic is on-going, it is imperative that we get this important data to researchers quickly, so they are able to work on the most up-to-date datasets. This demonstrates the UK Data Service's adaptability at this challenging time."

Professor Michaela Benzeval, Director of Understanding Society, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global event which will have a profound effect on many aspects of life in the UK".

"As a large and representative sample of the UK population, Understanding Society gives researchers and policy makers a detailed insight into the lives of multiple generations, allowing us to start understanding how the pandemic impacts on different people’s lives. Linking the new Covid-19 data to our existing longitudinal survey enriches these data, showing us how the social, economic and health lives of individuals and households are changing during this period and, in time, how they will affect people’s lives in the future.

Call for questionnaire content

Researchers are also being invited to submit ideas for the future content of this special survey.

Given that the survey is short in length, not every question that is proposed will be able to be included. Understanding Society is looking for questions that:

  • are in our core priority areas; (employment, income, health, family, education, civic engagement)
  • build on the longitudinal strengths of the study, i.e. links to data we have collected
    before or will collect in the future
  • focus on content that needs to be collected ‘in the moment’ rather than being asked retrospectively in a future annual survey
  • are enhanced by the household structure of the study
  • are of significant research and/or policy interest
  • complement existing content

You can submit your proposals for questions online. To be considered for the second wave of the survey, proposals must be received before midnight on May 3.

We expect to run as normal a service as possible during this COVID-19 (Coronavirus) emergency. Please visit our COVID-19 page for the latest information.

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