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Longitudinal study

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A longitudinal study (or longitudinal survey, or panel study) is a research design that involves repeated observations of the same variables (e.g., people) over long periods of time (i.e., uses longitudinal data). It is often a type of observational study, although it can also be structured as longitudinal randomized experiment.[1]

Longitudinal studies are often used in social-personality and clinical psychology, to study rapid fluctuations in behaviors, thoughts, and emotions from moment to moment or day to day; in developmental psychology, to study developmental trends across the life span; and in sociology, to study life events throughout lifetimes or generations; and in consumer research and political polling to study consumer trends. The reason for this is that, unlike cross-sectional studies, in which different individuals with the same characteristics are compared,[2] longitudinal studies track the same people, and so the differences observed in those people are less likely to be the result of cultural differences across generations, that is, the cohort effect. Longitudinal studies thus make observing changes more accurate and are applied in various other fields. In medicine, the design is used to uncover predictors of certain diseases. In advertising, the design is used to identify the changes that advertising has produced in the attitudes and behaviors of those within the target audience who have seen the advertising campaign. Longitudinal studies allow social scientists to distinguish short from long-term phenomena, such as poverty. If the poverty rate is 10% at a point in time, this may mean that 10% of the population are always poor or that the whole population experiences poverty for 10% of the time.

Longitudinal studies can be retrospective (looking back in time, thus using existing data such as medical records or claims database) or prospective (requiring the collection of new data).[citation needed]

Cohort studies are one type of longitudinal study which sample a cohort (a group of people who share a defining characteristic, typically who experienced a common event in a selected period, such as birth or graduation) and perform cross-section observations at intervals through time. However, not all longitudinal studies are cohort studies, as longitudinal studies can instead include a group of people who do not share a common event.[3]

As opposed to observing an entire population, a panel study follows a smaller, selected group - called a 'panel'.[4]


When longitudinal studies are observational, in the sense that they observe the state of the world without manipulating it, it has been argued that they may have less power to detect causal relationships than experiments. However, because of the repeated observation at the individual level, they have more power than cross-sectional observational studies, by virtue of being able to exclude time-invariant unobserved individual differences and also of observing the temporal order of events.[5][failed verification]

Longitudinal studies do not require large numbers of participants (as in the examples below). Qualitative longitudinal studies may include only a handful of participants,[6] and longitudinal pilot or feasibility studies often have fewer than 100 participants.[7]


Longitudinal studies are time-consuming and expensive.[8]

Longitudinal studies cannot avoid an attrition effect: that is, some subjects cannot continue to participate in the study for various reasons. Under longitudinal research methods, the reduction in the research sample will bias the remaining smaller sample.[citation needed]

Practice effect is also one of the problems: longitudinal studies tend to be influenced because subjects repeat the same procedure many times (potentially introducing autocorrelation), and this may cause their performance to improve or deteriorate.[citation needed]


Study name Type Country or region Year started Participants Remarks
45 and Up Study Cohort Australia 2006 267,153 The 45 and Up Study is a longitudinal study of participants aged 45 years and over in New South Wales conducted by the Sax Institute. Researchers are able to analyze Study data linked to MBS and PBS data, the NSW cancer registry, State hospitalizations, and emergency department visits and mortality data.

The Study is used by both researchers and policymakers to better understand how Australians are aging and using health services to prevent and manage ill-health and disability and guide health system decisions. 45 and Up is the largest ongoing study of healthy aging in the Southern Hemisphere.

Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative Panel International 2004 n/a
Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH) Cohort Australia 1996 50,000 Includes four cohorts of women: born between 1921 and 1926, 1946–1951, 1973–1978 and 1989–1995
Nurses' Health Study Cohort United States 1976 275,000 Most expensive and largest observational health study in history
The Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development,[9] (JYLS) Cohort Finland 1968 369 The sample was drawn from 12 complete school classes. Data has been collected when the participants were 8, 14, 20, 27, 33, 36, 42 and 50 years old.
Building a New Life in Australia : The Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants (BNLA)[10] Cohort Australia 2013 2,399 A longitudinal study of the settlement experience of humanitarian arrivals in Australia
Colombian Longitudinal Survey by Universidad de los Andes (ELCA)[11] Panel Colombia 2010 15,363[12] Follows rural and urban households for increasing the comprehension of social and economic changes in Colombia
Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) Cohort United Kingdom 1991 14,000
Born in Bradford Cohort United Kingdom 2007 12,500
1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) Cohort United Kingdom 1970 17,000 Monitors the development of babies born in the UK in one particular week in April 1970
British Doctors Study Cohort United Kingdom 1951 40,701 Monitored the health of British male doctors. It provided convincing evidence of the link between smoking and cancer.
British Household Panel Study Panel United Kingdom 1991 5,500 households (~10,000 individuals) Modeled on the US Panel Study of Income Dynamics PSID study
Busselton Health Study[13] Panel Australia 1966 10,000
Caerphilly Heart Disease Study Cohort United Kingdom 1979 2,512 Male subjects (Wales)
Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA-ÉLCV)[14] Cohort Canada 2011 51,388[15] All research participants will be followed until 2033 or death.[16]
Child Development Project[17] Cohort United States 1987 585 Follows children recruited the year before they entered kindergarten in three US cities: Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee, and Bloomington, Indiana
Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS) Cohort United States 1992 5,262 Florida
Congenital Heart Surgeons' Society (CHSS) Cohort Canada 5,000 Various studies, managed by the Data Center Studies on Congenital Heart Diseases
Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study Cohort New Zealand 1972 1,037 Participants born in Dunedin during 1972–73
Study of migrants and squatters in Rio's Favelas Cohort Brazil 1968 n/a The work of Janice Perlman, reported in her book Favela (2014)[18]
Footprints in Time; the longitudinal study of Indigenous children[19] Cohort Australia 2008 1,680 Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in selected locations across Australia
Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study Cohort United States 1998 n/a Study being conducted in 20 cities
Framingham Heart Study Cohort United States 1948 5,209 Massachusetts
Genetic Studies of Genius Cohort United States 1921 1,528 The world's oldest and longest-running longitudinal study
Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) Panel Germany 1984 12,000
Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) Cohort The Republic of Ireland 2006 8,000 children
10,000 infants
Growing Up in Ireland is an Irish Government-funded study of children being carried out jointly by the Economic and Social Research Institute and Trinity College Dublin. The study started in 2006 and follows the progress of two groups of children: 8,000 9-year-olds (Child Cohort/Cohort '98) and 10,000 9-month-olds (Infant Cohort/Cohort '08).
Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) Cohort New Zealand 2009 6,846 children

GUiNZ is New Zealand's largest ongoing longitudinal study. It follows approximately 11% of all NZ children born between 2009 and 2010.[20] The study aims to look in depth at the health and well-being of children (and their parents) growing up in NZ.

Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) Cohort Scotland 2003 14,000 Scotland
Health and Retirement Study Cohort United States 1988 22,000
Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey Panel Australia 2001 25,000
Grant Study Cohort United States 1939 268 A 75-year longitudinal study of 268 physically and mentally healthy Harvard college sophomores from the classes of 1939–1944.
Growing Up in Australia; the longitudinal study of Australian children[21] Cohort Australia 2004 10,000
Midlife in the United States Cohort United States 1983 6,500
Manitoba Follow-Up Study (MFUS) Cohort Canada 1948 3,983 men Canada's largest and longest running investigation of cardiovascular disease and successful aging
Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) Cohort United Kingdom 2000 19,000 Study of child development, social stratification, and family life
Millennium Cohort Study Cohort United States 2000 200,000 Evaluation of long-term health effects of military service, including deployments
Minnesota Twin Family Study Cohort United States 1983 17,000 (8,500 twin pairs)
National Child Development Study (NCDS) Cohort United Kingdom 1958 17,000
National Educational Panel Study (NEPS) Cohort Germany 2009 60,000 Study on the development of competencies, educational processes, educational decisions, and returns to education in formal, nonformal, and informal contexts throughout the life span
National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) Cohort United States 1979 12,686 (NLSY79),
9,000 (approx., NLSY97)
Includes four cohorts: NLSY79 (born 1957–64), NLSY97 (born 1980–84), NLSY79 Children and Young Adults, National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Mature Women (NLSW)
National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY) Cohort Canada 1994 35,795 Inactive since 2009
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Cohort United States 1971 8,837 (since 1999) Continual since 1999
Nature vs Nurture study Cohort United States 1960 11[23] Concluded in 1980. Controversial study by Peter B. Neubauer of twins and triplets separated at birth. Never published.
Pacific Islands Families Study Cohort New Zealand 2000 1,398
Panel Study of Belgian Households[24] Panel Belgium 1992 11,000[25]
Panel Study of Income Dynamics Panel United States 1968 70,000 Possibly the oldest household longitudinal survey in the US
The Raine Study Cohort Australia 1989 5,768 (Gen1 + Gen2)
750 (Gen3)
100 (Gen0)
The Raine Study is based in Perth, Western Australia. It has followed the same group of pregnant women (Gen1) and their babies (Gen2) who were born into the study between 1989 and 1992. Its original aim was to investigate the benefits of more frequent ultrasound scans on infant health.[26] It now studies the impact that early life factors (from the womb onwards) have on health throughout life.[27] The Raine Study now includes 4 generations of cohort members.
Rotterdam Study Cohort Netherlands 1990 15,000 Focus is on inhabitants of Ommoord, a suburb of Rotterdam
Seattle 500 Study Cohort United States 1974 500 Study of the effects of prenatal health habits on human development
Stirling County Study Cohort Canada 1952 639 Long-term study epidemiology of psychiatric disorders. Two cohorts were studied (575 from 1952 to 1970; 639 from 1970 to 1992).[28]
Study of Health in Pomerania Cohort Germany 1997 15,000 Investigates common risk factors, sub-clinical disorders and manifest diseases in a high-risk population
Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth Cohort United States 1972 5,000 Follows highly intelligent people identified by age 13.
Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) Panel Europe 2002 120,000 Multidisciplinary and cross-national panel database of micro data on health, socio-economic status and social and family networks of individuals aged 50 or over
Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) Cohort Ireland 2009 8,500 Studies health, social and financial circumstances of the older Irish population
New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study New Zealand 2009 n/a
Seattle Longitudinal Study Cohort United States 1956 6,000 [29]
Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study Panel United Kingdom 2009 100,000 Incorporates the British Household Panel Study
Up Series Cohort United Kingdom 1964 14 Documentary film project by Michael Apted
Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) Cohort International 2002 65,964 Studies the health and well-being of adult populations and the ageing process in six countries: China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Russian Federation and South Africa
Wisconsin Longitudinal Study[30] Cohort United States 1957 10,317 Follows graduates from Wisconsin high schools in 1957
ONS Longitudinal Study[31][32] Panel England and Wales 1974 (data from 1971) 500,000 (1% sample of the population of England and Wales). The LS contains records on over 500,000 people usually resident in England and Wales at each point in time) The sample comprises people born on one of four selected dates of birth and therefore makes up about 1% of the total population. The sample was initiated at the time of the 1971 Census, and the four dates were used to update the sample at the 1981,1991, 2001 and 2011 Censuses and in routine event registrations. Fresh LS members enter the study through birth and immigration and existing members leave through death and emigration. Thus, the LS represents a continuous sample of the population of England and Wales, rather than a sample taken at a one-time point only. It now includes records for over 950,000 study members. In addition to the census records, the individual LS records contain data for events such as deaths, births to sample mothers, emigrations and cancer registrations. Census information is also included for all people living in the same household as the LS member. However, it is important to emphasize that the LS does not follow up household members in the same way from census to census. Support for potential users and more information available at CeLSIUS
Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS)[33] Panel Scotland 1991 274,000 (comprises 5.3% sample of the Scottish population, with records on approximately 274,000 individuals using 20 random birthdates) The SLS is a large-scale linkage study built upon census records from 1991 onwards, with links to vital events (births, deaths, marriages, emigration); geographical and ecological data (deprivation indices, pollution, weather); primary and secondary education data (attendance, Schools Census, qualifications); and links to NHS Scotland ISD datasets, including cancer registrations, maternity records, hospital admissions, prescribing data and mental health admissions. The research potential is considerable. The SLS is a replica of the ONS Longitudinal Study but with a few key differences: sample size, commencement point and the inclusion of certain variables. The SLS is supported and maintained by the SLS Development & Support Unit with a safe-setting at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. Further information and support for potential users is available at SLS-DSU
Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS)[34] Panel Northern Ireland 2006 500,000 (comprises about 28% of the Northern Ireland population and approximately 50% of households). The NILS is a large-scale, representative data-linkage study created by linking data from the Northern Ireland Health Card Registration system to 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 census returns and to administrative data from other sources. These include vital events registered with the General Register Office for Northern Ireland (such as births, deaths, and marriages) and the Health Card registration system migration events data. The result is a 30-year-plus longitudinal data set which is regularly being updated. In addition to this rich resource, there is also the potential to link further Health and Social care data via distinct linkage projects (DLPs). The NILS is designed for statistics and research purposes only and is managed by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency under Census legislation. The data are de-identified at the point of use; access is only from within a strictly controlled 'secure environment' and governed by protocols and procedures to ensure data confidentiality.
Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) United States

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shadish, William R.; Cook, Thomas D.; Campbell, Donald T. (2002). Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference (2nd ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin. p. 267. ISBN 0-395-61556-9.
  2. ^ Carlson, Neil R.; Miller, Harold L. Jr.; Heth, Donald S.; Donahoe, John W.; Martin, G. Neil (2009). Psychology: the Science of Behavior (7th ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon. p. 361. ISBN 978-0-205-54786-9.
  3. ^ "What is the difference between a Panel Study and a Cohort Study?". Academia Stack Exchange. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  4. ^ Longitudinal Study in Sociology.
  5. ^ van der Krieke, Lian; Blaauw, Frank J.; Emerencia, Ando C.; Schenk, Hendrika M.; Slaets, Joris P.J.; Bos, Elisabeth H.; de Jonge, Peter; Jeronimus, Bertus F. (August 2016). "Temporal Dynamics of Health and Well-Being: A Crowdsourcing Approach to Momentary Assessments and Automated Generation of Personalized Feedback" (PDF). Psychosomatic Medicine. 79 (2). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: 213–223. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000378. PMID 27551988. S2CID 10955232.
  6. ^ Wood, Jennifer P.; Connelly, Denise M.; Maly, Monica R. (November 2010). "'Getting back to real living': A qualitative study of the process of community reintegration after stroke". Clinical Rehabilitation. 24 (11). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications: 1045–56. doi:10.1177/0269215510375901. PMID 20713436. S2CID 40295472.
  7. ^ Freeman, Joshua R.; Whitcomb, Brian W.; Roy, Amrita; Bertone-Johnson, Elizabeth R.; Reich, Nicholas G.; Healy, Andrew J. (August 2018). "A pilot longitudinal study of anti-Müllerian hormone levels throughout gestation in low risk pregnancy". Health Science Reports. 1 (8). Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley: e53. doi:10.1002/hsr2.53. PMC 6266452. PMID 30623089.
  8. ^ Cherry, Kendra. "What Is Longitudinal Research?". About.com. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  9. ^ FSD. "Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development (JYLS)". www.fsd.uta.fi. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
  10. ^ "Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA): The Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants". Department of Social Services, Australian Government. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  11. ^ Colombian Longitudinal Survey by Universidad de los Andes (ELCA)
  12. ^ Encuesta Longitudinal Colombiaba de la Universidad de los Andes – ELCA 2013[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Busselton Health Study – Past Projects". BPMRI. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  14. ^ "Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging". Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  15. ^ Raina, Parminder; Wolfson, Christina; Kirkland, Susan; Griffith, Lauren E.; Balion, Cynthia; Cossette, Benoît; Dionne, Isabelle; Hofer, Scott; Hogan, David; van den Heuvel, Edwin R (Dec 2019). "Cohort profile: the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA)". International Journal of Epidemiology. 48 (6): 1753. doi:10.1093/ije/dyz173. PMC 6929533. PMID 31633757.
  16. ^ Raina, Parminder; Wolfson, Christina; Kirkland, Susan; Giffith, Lauren E.; Balion, Cynthia; Cossette, Benoît; Dionne, Isabelle; Hofer, Scott; Hogan, David; van den Heuvel, Edwin R. (Dec 2019). "Cohort profile: the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA)". International Journal of Epidemiology. 48 (6): 1753. doi:10.1093/ije/dyz173. PMC 6929533. PMID 31633757.
  17. ^ "Child Development Project – Developmental Pathways to Adjustment and Well-being in Early Adulthood". Durham, North Carolina: Center for Child & Family Policy – Duke University. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  18. ^ "Favela: Longitudinal Multi-Generational Study of migrants and squatters in Rio's Favelas, 1968-2014". Archived from the original on 2018-08-09. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  19. ^ "Overview of Footprints in Time – The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC)". Department of Social Services, Australian Government. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  20. ^ Walters, Laura (15 May 2018). "Budget 2018: $2m for NZ's biggest longitudinal study about growing up in NZ". Stuff. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
  21. ^ Studies, Australian Institute of Family. "Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)". Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS). Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  22. ^ "Manitoba Follow-up Study – About The Study". Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  23. ^ "Adoption study records of the Child Development Center Finding Aid". Archives at Yale. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  24. ^ "Panel Study of Belgian Households". Archived from the original on 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2020-03-17.
  25. ^ Panel Study of Belgian Households, Survey summary
  26. ^ Newnham, J.P.; Evans, S.F.; Michael, C.A.; Stanley, F.J.; Landau, L.I. (1993-10-09). "Effects of frequent ultrasound during pregnancy: a randomised controlled trial". The Lancet. 342 (8876): 887–891. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(93)91944-H. ISSN 0140-6736. PMID 8105165. S2CID 11763088.
  27. ^ McKnight, Charlotte M.; Newnham, John P.; Stanley, Fiona J.; Mountain, Jenny A.; Landau, Louis I.; Beilin, Lawrence J.; Puddey, Ian B.; Pennell, Craig E.; Mackey, David A. (2012). "Birth of a cohort — the first 20 years of the Raine study". Medical Journal of Australia. 197 (11–12): 608–610. doi:10.5694/mja12.10698. ISSN 1326-5377. PMID 23230915. S2CID 43704496.
  28. ^ Murphy, Jane M.; Laird, Nan McKenzie; Monson, Richard R.; Sobol, Arthur M.; Leighton, Alexander H. (May 2000). "Incidence of depression in the Stirling County Study: historical and comparative perspectives". Psychological Medicine. 30 (3). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press: 505–14. doi:10.1017/s0033291799002044. PMID 10883707. S2CID 40645927.
  29. ^ "About the Seattle Longitudinal Study". Archived from the original on 14 September 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  30. ^ "Wisconsin Longitudinal Study Homepage". Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  31. ^ "ONS Longitudinal Study". Archived from the original on 2015-10-10. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
  32. ^ Shelton, Nicola; Marshall, Chris E.; Stuchbury, Rachel; Grundy, Emily; Dennett, Adam; Tomlinson, Jo; Duke-Williams, Oliver; Xun, Wei (April 2019). "Cohort Profile: the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study (The LS)". International Journal of Epidemiology. 48 (2). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press: 383–384g. doi:10.1093/ije/dyy243. PMC 6469306. PMID 30541026.
  33. ^ "Home :: SLS – Scottish Longitudinal Study Development & Support Unit". Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  34. ^ "Queen's University Belfast – NILS Research Support Unit – NILS Research Support Unit". Retrieved 1 December 2016.

External links[edit]