Understanding the economic, social and health impacts of COVID-19 using lifetime data: evidence from 5 nationally representative UK cohorts

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Social Science


There is an urgent need to understand the economic, social and health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, the extent to which it is widening or narrowing inequalities, and the lifelong factors which shape vulnerability and resilience to its effects.

We propose survey data collection and novel linkages in the UK's unique series of five national longitudinal cohort studies which have captured detailed social, economic, developmental, behavioural, attitudinal, and physical and mental health data on large representative samples
since birth. The cohorts cover key life stages from late adolescence (19/20), early adulthood (30/31), mid-life (50) and older age (62, and 74).

A rapid first COVID web-survey was successfully issued in-house in all five cohorts in May 2020 (n=18,148). We propose two further web surveys in August and November 2020, to capture the evolving circumstances of study participants across multiple life domains, including in health, work, and social life. This will be combined with the rich social and biomedical life course data already collected within these cohorts, to identify inequalities in the short, medium and long-term effects of the crisis, and to understand how different lifetime trajectories either mitigate or exacerbate its effects.

Novel data from a COVID symptoms tracking app, and a range of geo-environmental indicators including green space and air pollution will also be linked. The latter are hypothesised to modify the mental and physical health effects of the crisis.

The data collected will be made rapidly available to researchers via UK Data Service, and a series of policy briefings, and academic papers will be produced.


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