FAQs

Got questions about the study? Check out the FAQ’s below. If you can’t find what you are looking for, contact us. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.

Search FAQs

Why am I unique?

  • Why are Next Steps study members so special?
    • Life for your generation is different to the lives of your parents and grandparents and to the lives of younger generations. So, we follow your lives to understand and learn from your special generation.

      The world around you has been changing fast. You’re the last generation to remember life without broadband, tablets and mobile phones. And since you were born, scientists have mapped the human genome, there have been space missions to Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and gay couples can now adopt, marry and share pensions in the UK.

      While your generation has grown up at a time of great technological, scientific and social advancement there have also been great challenges, like the global economic recession, climate change and international security. We want to know what this means for your generation who are in the process of finding work, somewhere to live, and possibly starting a family of your own?

      You’ve been specially chosen to be the voice of your generation. You are one of 16,000 people selected to represent your generation. Each and every one of you brings something unique to the study, and together, you represent the diversity of the Next Steps generation. That’s why it’s so important that people from all different sorts of backgrounds continue to take part in the study. Without you, we don’t hear the whole story and the picture is not complete.

      To learn more about why the study was started, visit the ‘History of the study’ page.

  • Why should I take part?
    • By taking part in Next Steps, you’re helping to shape society and to make life better for your generation and the next. Politicians, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers and others use findings from the study to improve services and policies to help people like you. Find out more about how the study has made a difference.

      It’s your story and only you can tell it. Next Steps has been following you since you were in Year 9 at school, aged 13/14 and we really want to continue following your adult lives.

      You’re unique and irreplaceable. If you choose not to take part, we can not replace you with anyone else. Without you, we don’t have the whole story.

      It’s important that we understand what life is like for people from all different parts of the country, different family backgrounds and different ethnicities. That’s why we need as many of you as possible to keep taking part – each and every one of you brings something new to the picture and together, you represent the diversity of the Next Steps generation.

  • How was I initially recruited?
    • Next Steps follows the lives of around 16,000 people born between 1st September 1989 and 31st August 1990.

      You were originally recruited to the study in 2004 when you were in year 9 at school. Your school was selected at random from all independent and maintained secondary schools and pupil referral units in England and your name was then randomly selected from all the pupils in Year 9 attending your school in February 2004.

      Over 21,000 pupils from 647 participating schools and referral units across England were originally approached to take part in Next Steps.

      At that time, the Department for Education and Skills (later known as the Department of Education) wrote to you and your parents/guardians to tell you about the study and to invite you to take part in the first survey. 15,770 families were interviewed in the first survey in 2004.

      A further 352 pupils were added to the study in 2008 to ensure that the study included enough young people of different ethnicities.

      In total, 16,122 young people were recruited to the study.

  • Who else takes part?
    • More than 16,000 people have taken part in Next Steps since it started.

      As you were growing up, your parents or guardians may also have taken part in the study as well. So, in fact, nearly 30,000 people have been involved in Next Steps in one way or another.

      At future surveys, we may want to talk to other important people in your life, such as your partner or children (if you have them). But it will be up to them to decide whether or not they want to take part.

Taking part

  • What will you ask me about?
    • At each survey, we’ll ask you about things that are relevant to your lives. When you were younger, we asked you about school, friends, family life and your hopes for the future. Now you are older, we’ll ask you about things like work, health, whether you get married or have children, and about your attitudes and beliefs. We’ll write to you before each survey to tell you all about what is involved.

      If you move or if your contact details change, please let us know as soon as you can. This means we can make sure you get information about Next Steps and that we can contact you to invite you to take part in each survey.

  • How often will the surveys take place?
    • We’re interested in following your life story. We want to see how your life changes over time, and what your life is like at certain ages. When you were growing up, Next Steps surveys took place every year because your lives were changing so quickly. Now that you are older, we will visit you less often.

      The most recent survey was in 2015 when you were 25. We hope to continue to get in touch with you at particular ages throughout your adult life. These ages are specially chosen to mark key points in your lives that are interesting or important. The timing for future surveys has not yet been decided. But it is likely that future surveys will take place every 3-5 years.

      The more information that the study gathers about your life over time, the more valuable it becomes. This is why we so value your unique and continued contribution.

      It is up to you to decide whether or not to take part in each survey. We will send you information before each survey to let you know what it will involve. If you move between surveys, it would be very helpful if you could contact us with your new address.

  • How long will the study continue?
    • We hope that the study will continue throughout your life. Other similar studies, which started in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000/1 are still going on today.

  • What if I no longer want to take part?
    • We really hope that you continue to take part. However, the study is voluntary so if you no longer want to take part in the next survey or in any future surveys, please contact us to let us know.

      If you are not sure whether you’d like to continue to take part or if you have any questions about taking part, please do not hesitate to contact us. We really value the contribution you make to the study and are always happy to talk to you and answer any questions you may have.

      Without you Next Steps is not possible. If you decide not to take part, we can’t replace you with anyone else. Your unique contribution is incredibly valuable.

      To find out more about how your involvement helps make a difference to society visit the ‘What we’ve learned‘ page.

  • Can I rejoin the study if I missed a previous survey?
    • Yes! We’d like everyone to take part each time we visit. But it’s up to you to decide whether or not to take part each time. If you miss a survey, you can still remain in the study and do the next survey.

      Even if you haven’t taken part for a while, we would love you to take part in the next survey. There’s a lot we can learn from how your lives have changed since you last took part even if we don’t have all the details of your life in between.

      Each survey is important because we focus on different aspects of your lives each time we get in touch. The more information that the study gathers about your life over time, the more valuable it becomes. This is why we so value your unique and continued contribution.

      If you are not sure about whether to take part or if you have any questions about taking part, please do not hesitate to contact us. We really value your contribution and are always happy to talk to you and answer any questions you have.

  • Should I tell other people I am part of Next Steps?
    • It’s fine to tell family and friends that you are part of the study. We do advise you not to make this detail public though, for example on social media, as this could risk compromising your anonymity.

  • Why did Next Steps move to the Centre for Longitudinal Studies?
    • Next Steps was transferred to the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) in 2013 from the Department for Education (DfE), who had run the study since it started in 2004. At the same time, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) took over funding of the study.

      DfE wrote to all study members to tell you about the transfer, and give you the opportunity to opt-out of your details being passed to CLS. The letter and leaflet they sent to you are available in the resources section.

      ESRC decided to pay for Next Steps to continue because it is the only major study following the lives of your generation. They asked CLS to manage Next Steps as we have lots of experience running similar studies.

Keeping in touch

  • What sort of information will you send me?
    • We will write to you regularly with updates about Next Steps, to make sure you know what is coming up, what we’ve learned and how the study has made a difference.

      Before each survey, we’ll write to you to tell you everything you need to know about what is involved. You might want to know when the survey is taking place, or how long it will take. We’ll always try to answer any questions you have. After each survey, we’ll also write to thank you for taking part.

      Between surveys, we will send you results from the study telling you what we have found out. It can take a while to put together all of the information you give us, so it is usually a few years after each survey before we can send you the results.

      You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with the study.

  • How do I find out the results from Next Steps?
    • We will write to you regularly with news from the study, telling you what we’ve found out about your generation. It can take a while to put together all of the information you give us, so it is usually a few years after each survey before we can send you the findings.

      The information from the study is being used all the time by researchers around the world, so new findings are always emerging. To find out more about the study so far, visit the ‘What have we learned?’ page.

      Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with the latest news.

  • Why is it important to keep my contact details up to date?
    • You’re such a valuable part of the study and we really value your input. We want to make sure that we have the right contact details so that we keep you up to date with the study and contact you to invite you to take part in each survey.

      Updating your contact details is simple to do. All you have to do is either call us via the Freephone telephone number (0800 977 4566), or email us at nextsteps@ucl.ac.uk. Your call and/or email will be treated in the strictest confidence. You can also update your details by completing this online form. From time to time, we may also send you a change of details form or card to help you to do this.

  • Can I keep in touch with Next Steps on social media?
    • Next Steps is now on Facebook and Twitter so it’s easy for you to keep up to date with the study.

      Facebook

      You can keep up to date with Next Steps by liking our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/nextstepsstudy.

      Only your Facebook friends will be able to see that you’ve liked our page, and we’ve disabled the comment function to protect your identity from others.

      Twitter

      Next Steps is also on Twitter. You can follow us at @nextstepsstudy.

      Other people will be able to see your Twitter name listed under our followers. If you reply to one of our tweets, only the people who follow you will be able to see it.

      Contact us by email, phone or post

      If you have a question or comment about the study, please contact us by email, phone or post and not through Facebook or Twitter. Find out how to reach us on the contact us page.

      Find out about keeping safe online.

How we find you

  • How do you find us if we move?
    • We need to keep in touch with as many of you as possible to make sure Next Steps continues to represent the diversity of your generation. So, if we find out that you’ve moved, we will try to find out your new address.

      We first try to contact you through the direct links you have given us, such as phone numbers, email addresses and your postal address.

      If that doesn’t work, then we will try to contact any family members or friends whose details you have given us. If we still haven’t found you, we will check the electoral register and the telephone book, both of which are public records and available electronically. We may also try to find you using internet searches, by looking on social media sites and by using information held by government department and agencies.

      All of this tracing is usually done before the survey starts so that we can provide interviewers with your current email address, telephone number or home address. However, if we have not been able to locate you, or if the interviewer finds out you have moved, then they will also try to find out where you’ve moved to. As well as trying to make contact by phone and in person, the interviewer may also call at your old address to speak to the new residents and call on neighbours. When we are looking for you, we won’t reveal to other people, apart from your family and friends, that you are part of Next Steps.

  • Do you use information held by government to find us?
    • From time to time we try to trace study members using information held by government departments and agencies. So far, Next Steps have tried to trace study members using the National Pupil Database and the Individualised Learner Record held by the Department for Education (both England only), and the NHS (via the NHS Central Register). We may use other government databases in the future.

      The National Pupil Database contains the addresses of all state school pupils in England, which are collected through schools. The Individualised Learner Record collects information on learners and their learning at further education colleges, sixth form colleges, independent learning providers and voluntary and community organisations in England. The NHS Central Register is a database of GP registrations and is held by NHS Digital. We would also find out if you died or moved out of the country from this register.

      Whenever we do this, we securely transfer the personal details (name, sex, date of birth and last known address) of study members to the government department or agency. They use these details to identify our study members and then send us their up-to-date addresses. They do not retain the personal details sent to them.

      This kind of personal information is not given out routinely by government departments and agencies. Special permissions are needed, and this is only done after a careful review of why this information is needed, ethical issues and data security procedures. For the information coming from the NHS, special approval under Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006 from the Independent Group Advising on the Release of Data (IGARD) is needed.

  • Do you use the internet and social media to find us?
    • Sometimes we try to find study members using the internet and social media. This may involve carrying out internet searches, for example using Google, and searching on Facebook and other social media sites. We also know that it can be difficult to identify people accurately on the internet and social media. So, whenever we are searching in this way, we will not reveal the name of the study in case the person we contact isn’t one of our study members.

  • What do I do if I move?
    • It would be very helpful (as well as saving us time!) if you could contact us to let us know where you have moved to. This is simple to do. All you have do is either call us via the Freephone telephone number (0800 977 4566), or email us at nextsteps@ucl.ac.uk. Your call and/or email will be treated in the strictest confidence.

  • What if I leave the country?
    • If you move abroad please let us know your new contact details, including your address, telephone number and email address so that we can keep in touch and send you letters and updates.

      You can contact us with these details by Freephone (0800 977 4566), or by email (nextsteps@ucl.ac.uk). Your call and/or email will be treated in the strictest confidence.

      It is not usually possible for study members living abroad to take part in the surveys. However, you can re-join the study and be included in the next round of interviews if and when you return to the UK.

      In the future, it may be possible for study members living abroad to conduct the survey remotely through web or telephone interviews.

Privacy and data protection

  • How will my information be used?
    • We hold your personal details (your name, full address, telephone numbers, email addresses, etc.) in a secure and restricted administrative database, to which only a small number of authorised staff have access. We use your personal details so that we can keep in touch with you, for instance to send you information on how the data you provide to us in the survey is being used by researchers, and so that we can contact you during each survey. We never make these personal details available to researchers or to any third parties who might use them for marketing purposes.

      • The mailings that you receive from us for keeping in touch are printed and sent to you by an external mailing company, Copyprint UK. We send them your contact details securely, using an encrypted online portal, to enable them to send out mailings to you.
      • The surveys that you take part in every few years are collected by external organisations contracted by us. NatCen Social Research was the independent research organisation that was contracted to carry out the Age 25 Survey, on behalf of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at University College London. We send them your contact details securely, using an encrypted online portal, to enable them to approach you to take part. Once the survey has been completed, they return us your responses securely, also using an encrypted online portal.
      • When we receive your survey responses, your information is split into two parts for storage at CLS. Your personal details are removed from the survey responses that you provide. Your survey responses are held on a separate secure research database, which do not contain any personal details, and are held together with the survey responses from thousands of other participants. This research data is then deposited with the UK Data Service, which is located in the University of Essex. The data made available at the UK Data Service do not contain any personal details that would enable you to be identified at individual level. They are made available to academic researchers who must register with the Data Service and must work under a strict licence agreement.
  • Who receives my personal data?
    • We share your personal data with those external organisations we have contracted to either carry out our surveys, or send you mailings between each survey. NatCen Social Research was the independent research organisation that was contracted to carry out the Age 25 Survey, on behalf of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at University College London. Copyprint UK carry out the mailings between each survey. These external organisations are contractually bound to UCL to keep your data safe and secure, and are accredited to data security standards.

  • How do you keep my data secure?
    • We go to great lengths to maintain your privacy. We respect that you have voluntarily given information to us on the basis that we protect your rights. We keep any information which could identify you in a secure location.

      At the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, the study data is managed by two different teams, all of whom have signed strict confidentiality contracts and can only access this information for limited purposes. One team deals with your personal contact information to make sure we are able to stay in touch with you. The other manages all the other information you provide in the survey. Neither team has access to both.

      The organisations which carry out the surveys are also contractually bound by very strict confidentiality and data security agreements.

      The collected survey responses are made available to the research community at the UK Data Service. These research data do not contain any personal details that are identifiable at individual level and are only made available to researchers who register with the Data Service, who must work under a strict licence agreement. No-one using the data will know who the information has come from, or who is in the study.

  • How long will you hold my data for?
    • The purpose of Next Steps is to understand the whole picture – of your lives individually, and of your generation as a whole. The aim is to follow your whole life’s journey. For this reason, we have not set a time limit for how long we will keep your data. This applies to both data collected in the surveys and any data linked in to your survey data. It is very important for us to keep your data safe.

  • Can I access the data I have provided to the study?
    • Under data protection legislation you can get a copy of the information you gave to the surveys. Everyone has the right to access any personal data that is being kept about them. You can do this by making what is known as a subject access request. You should send your request to nextsteps@ucl.ac.uk

      Additionally, you can download the study data from UK Data Service by registering and signing the special confidentiality contract. However, unless you are a professional researcher the data may be difficult to understand as they are in a complex format. And you won’t be able to identify yourself as the data are de-identified.

  • Are my contact details transferred to other countries?
    • Your contact details are not transferred outside the European Economic Area (EEA), to ensure that they are protected by the strong EEA data protection laws.

  • How do I withdraw from the study?
    • You are under no statutory or contractual obligation to provide us with your personal data. You have the right to withdraw from the study at any time. If you do this, we won’t contact you anymore, but we will keep your contact details as a historic record that you were once a member of the study.

  • How many people have used the data?
    • There are lots of researchers who analyse the data from Next Steps every year. Anyone using the data needs to sign a special confidentiality contract which states that they will only use it for research.

  • What is GDPR?
    • The General Data Protection Regulation – https://www.eugdpr.org/, sets out our duties and responsibilities when we process and use your personal data. GDPR was approved by the European Parliament on 14th April 2016 and comes into force on 25th May 2018. Because the GDPR is a regulation, it is directly binding and applicable. The new Data Protection Bill (2018) will bring the GDPR into British law, and will be part of the Data Protection Act 2018.

  • How does GDPR affect Next Steps?
    • Next Steps collects personal data from you, so it needs to be compliant with GDPR, which sets out the duties and responsibilities we have to you, and your rights regarding the personal data that we hold and process.

      The study is managed by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), which resides at University College London (UCL). UCL is the ‘Data Controller’ for this study. We contract with different external organisations who carry out our surveys on our behalf.  These organisations act as ‘Data Processors’. For the last Age 25 Survey, the fieldwork was contracted to NatCen Social Research. The postal mailings we send to you between each survey are contracted to Copyprint UK, who also act as a data processor.

      The study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The aim of the study is to generate data for research purposes and its funders and UCL are Public Authorities/ Bodies – this is regarded as a ‘Task in the Public Interest’ under GDPR – and is the lawful basis on which we are permitted to process your personal data.

      In addition, we comply with all the relevant legislation on protection of confidentiality. We have received externally certified accreditation to the NHS Digital Information Governance Toolkit standard, which allows us to hold data from the NHS, and which also provides you with assurance that your data is secured and protected in the strongest possible manner.

  • What is the legal basis on which you can process my personal data?
    • Next Steps is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The aim of the study is to generate data for research purposes and its funders and UCL are Public Authorities/ Bodies – this is regarded as a ‘Task in the Public Interest’ under GDPR – and is the lawful basis on which we are permitted to process your personal data.

  • Who is the Data Controller?
    • University College London is the Data Controller and is committed to protecting the rights of individuals in line with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

  • Who is the Data Protection Officer?
    • If you want to request further information about our privacy notice you may contact the University College London Data Protection Officer through data-protection@ucl.ac.uk

  • Is this Privacy Notice likely to change?
    • At CLS we will keep our privacy notice under regular review and it will be updated at least annually.

      If you want to request information about our privacy notice you can contact us via the details on our website https://nextstepsstudy.org.uk/ or via our Data Protection Office at data-protection@ucl.ac.uk

  • How do I make a complaint?
    • If you wish to raise a complaint or a cause for concern in relation to the study or about how your data is processed you can get in contact with us in a range of ways:

      Call: 0800 977 4566

      Email: nextsteps@ucl.ac.uk

      Post: FREEPOST RTHR-TUGG-UTCR Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL

Adding other information

  • Do you add any other information to my data?
    • Government departments and agencies hold information about people, which they use for routine administrative purposes. From time to time, we add information from these routine administrative records to the study data. We only do this if we have permission from you.

      When you first joined the study, your parents gave permission to add information from your school records to the survey data. As part of the age 25 survey, we asked for your permission to add information from a number of other administrative records. Find out more about this in the information booklet about data linkage, titled ‘Adding Other Information About You‘.

      To add information from administrative records, we securely transfer personal details (such as name, sex, date of birth, address, NHS and National Insurance number – if available) to the government department or agency, for the people who have given permission to do so. No other information about the person, or any of their answers to the surveys, is sent. The government bodies or agencies only use these details to identify the records in their systems and then send us the information from these records. Once the records are identified, your person details are destroyed. The government departments and agencies do not retain the personal details sent to them. When the information from the records is sent to us, we add it to the information collected in the study, and make it available to researchers under restricted access arrangements. Names, addresses, National Insurance and/or NHS numbers, are never disclosed to researchers.

      The permissions for adding information from administrative records can be changed or withdrawn at any time, without giving us any reason. This can be done by writing to FREEPOST RTHR-TUGG-UTCR, Next Steps, UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AL, or by emailing the team at nextsteps@ucl.ac.uk.

      We also add information, which is not about you individually, but is about, for example, the school you went to or the area you live in. Any information like this, provided to researchers, is fully anonymised and cannot be used to identify who is in the study.

      Watch our video to find out more about adding other information.

       

  • What information from have you added to my data?
    • When you first joined the study, your parents gave permission to add information from your school records to the survey data. As part of the age 25 survey we asked for your permission to add information from your health, education, work and benefits records, as well as any police and criminal justice records you may have. We have already started adding some information from these records to the information we have collected about you as part of the survey.

      Find out more about the information that we have added below:

      –    Information added from routine education records

      At the start of the study, your parents gave permission to add information from your school records, kept by the Department for Education (DfE), to the survey data. At the age 25 survey, we asked you if we could add to the survey data, information from your further and higher education records, held by the Department for Education (DfE), the Higher Education Statistics Agency (UCAS) and the Student Loans Company (SLC).

      We have already added some information about your performance at school (up to age 16) and have made this information available to researchers via the UK Data Service under restricted access arrangements. We have also added information from your further education (up to age 19) and are preparing it for deposit at the UK Data Service, but we have not yet added information from your higher education records.

      These records, combined with the information you’ve given during the surveys, will allow researchers to better understand your experiences during and after leaving school, and can help provide better education and training opportunities.

      –    Information added from routine health records

      At age 25 survey, we also asked you if we could add to the survey data, some information held by the National Health Service (NHS) about your health such as visits to the doctor, nurse or midwife, hospital attendance or admission and the dates of these visits, health diagnoses or conditions, medicines, surgical procedures or other treatments you have received.

      We are now starting to get some information about your health. For example, we have already added some information from your hospital records.

      For those of you in England, NHS Digital hold all hospital admissions and outcomes data from the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) dataset, and we have linked this information for individual participants in the study, who have consented to this. We will make this linked information available to researchers via the UK Data Service under restricted access arrangements.

      For those of you in Scotland and Wales, your medical records are held by the Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS Scotland and NHS Wales. As very few of you live in Scotland and Wales, we do not plan to link this data at present.

      These records, combined with information you’ve given us during the surveys, will help researchers understand what factors prevent or contribute to poor health and how health conditions can be treated or managed more effectively.

      –   Information added from economic records

      At the Age 25 Survey, you have been asked for permission for your economic records to be added. This includes information about benefits, employment, earnings, tax credits and occupational pensions, and national insurance contributions.

      We are now in the process of adding this information from your economic records, kept by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This information will give us a better picture of your economic circumstances without asking additional questions in the interview. It will help researchers understand how your generation is managing in this difficult economic climate.

      –   Information added from criminal records

      As part of the age 25 survey, we also asked for your permission to add information from any police and criminal justice records you may have, kept by the Ministry of Justice.

      We have not yet collected this information, but we are intending to add some information from these records in the near future.

  • What if I don’t want you to add other information about me anymore?
    • Any permission you give for adding administrative information to the information we collect as part of the study will remain valid for the duration of the study, and we will collect these records on an ongoing basis – unless you tell us to stop. We have not set a time limit for how long we will keep your records.

      You can withdraw your permission to add information from your administrative records at any time, without giving us a reason. This applies for the permissions that your parents have given on your behalf in the past. We will then stop adding information from these records in the future. To change your permissions, write to us free of charge to: Freepost RTHR-TUGG-UTCR, NEXT STEPS, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL, or email the team at nextsteps@ucl.ac.uk.

  • Who will use the linked survey and administrative information
    • The linked administrative and survey data will be made available to researchers and policy makers via the UK Data Service for research purposes only. Researchers will only be given permission to use the data after successful application to ensure that the information will be used responsibly and safely, presents a strong scientific case and explains the potential impact of the research and its wider value to society.

      Your name, addresses, National Insurance number and NHS number are never included in any data made available to researchers via the UK Data Service, which ensures that no individual can be identified from the data or the research findings. All information collected by and added to Next Steps is treated with the strictest confidence in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

About social research

  • What is social research?
    • Social research is research conducted by social scientists, such as anthropologists, economists, psychologists and sociologists. It aims to understand human behaviour, mental processes, and how people interact in society. Researchers apply different statistical methods to data in order to do this. The objective of their research is to understand how and why people fare differently in life, and therefore how policies can be designed to help improve the lives of some.

  • What is survey research?
    • Survey research involves collecting information from a sample of individuals through their answers to questions. Surveys are used in lots of parts of our society, for example by retail companies to understand shoppers’ preferences, in polls to reveal people’s voting intentions, and in studies such as Next Steps. Surveys are carried out in different ways – including face-to-face or over the telephone with an interviewer, or on the internet by self-completion.

  • What is a cohort study?
    • A cohort study follows a group of people that were born at a similar date or period of time – be it a day, month, year or decade, for instance. It follows these people throughout their lives, and collects information from them at particular ages. By following the same people over time, these studies are able to tell us how and why people change as they get older. Next Steps is a cohort study following people born between 1 September 1989 and 31 August 1990.

  • Why are cohort studies so valuable?
    • Our society is changing fast. Findings from cohort studies are used to chart and understand how society has changed over the years, and how life experiences are different for each generation. They help understand the impact of societal trends such as our ageing population and the growth in lone-parent and step-families, and changes such as growing employment insecurity.

      Cohort studies help understand that change. Evidence from cohort studies have contributed to many policy decisions in diverse areas – such as increasing the duration of maternity leave, raising the school leaving age and updating breast feeding advice given to parents.