Blueprint for enhanced longitudinal studies

Event history of a female SLS member

Longitudinal studies, mostly based on surveys relying on re-interviewing of individuals, have a long history in the UK. The Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS), developed by a team of researchers, including Professor Allan Findlay of the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development, and medical researchers from Edinburgh and Glasgow, is a pioneering study, which combines census, civil registration, health and education data (administrative data)while maintaining anonymity within the data system. The collected records allow the comparing of individuals’ changing circumstances over time while retaining safeguards to protect personal information in a substantially more effective and cost-effective manner.

The system is used by the National Records of Scotland’s (NRS) statistical infrastructure for the production of new statistical series and by local, national government and NHS officials for policy analysis and has become a model in Scotland and other parts of the UK, which allows the linkage, holding, and analysis of personal data within appropriately strict legal and ethical constraints.

The research led to the launching in 2006 of the Longitudinal Studies Centre Scotland, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.