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Understanding Society: The UK’s Household Longitudinal Study 



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Verian (formerly Kantar Public) has partnered with our client at the University of Essex’s Institute of Social and Economic Research to deliver the Understanding Society study since 2012.  

Understanding Society is the largest longitudinal study of its kind in the world and provides crucial information for researchers, policymakers, charities and think tanks on the changes and stability of people's lives in the UK. 

The study covers around 27,000 households annually, with the aim of interviewing all adults in the household, and receiving self-completion survey responses from all 10-15 year olds.  

In the time we have held the contract, we have worked with our clients to move this flagship study from an entirely face-to-face data collection approach to a mixed mode approach where the majority of interviews are now completed online. As part of this transformation we have conducted a series of experiments aimed at maximising web response on both longitudinal and fresh samples.  

The mixed mode approach meant the survey was able to continue seamlessly through the Covid-19 pandemic when face-to-face interviewing was not possible.  

We have also successfully introduced the self-collection of biomeasures and biological samples by study members, so that these measures can be collected in all modes. The augmentation of longitudinal survey data with objective health measures provides and even richer resource for researchers.  


Understanding Society remains the backbone of ESRC’s strategic delivery plan to harness the power of social science to drive change that makes a difference to all our lives, improving outcomes for individuals, society and the economy.  

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