MRC NSHD 1946-2005 Data

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DOI Identifier


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  • Douglas, James – MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL
  • Wadsworth, Michael – MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL
  • Kuh, Diana – MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL
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Medical Research Council
NSHD Research Team

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MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL

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Publication Year


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Birth Cohort
Life course

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Resource Type Dataset

clinical data; observational data; survey data;



The MRC National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) has informed UK health care, education and social policy for more than 50 years and is the oldest and longest running of the British birth cohort studies. Today, with study members in their seventies, the NSHD offers a unique opportunity to explore the long-term biological and social processes of ageing and how ageing is affected by factors acting across the whole of life.
From an initial maternity survey of 5362 births recorded in England, Scotland and Wales during one week of March 1946, a socially stratified sample of singleton babies born to married parents was selected for follow-up. These participants have been studied over twenty times throughout their life.
During their childhood, the main aim of the NSHD was to investigate how the environment at home and at school affected physical and mental development and educational attainment. During adulthood, the main aim was to investigate how childhood health and development and lifetime social circumstances affected their adult health and function and their change with age. Now, as participants have reached retirement, the research team is developing the NSHD into a life course study of ageing.
Study members were asked to attend a clinic at age 60-64 for a range of assessments (or alternatively have a home visit). They were invited for a home visit at 69 years, updating information on health, lifestyle and life circumstances as well as obtaining repeat physical and cognitive measurements. Postal questionnaires were completed before the clinic and home visits. A subset of 500 study members are also being invited to participate in a Neuroscience sub-study. This publication covers data from the NSHD for the years 1946 to 2005.
The cohort study is ongoing and further data collections are being added, while component data sets are separately referable.


The LHA supports the core principles of the MRC with regard to data sharing and is committed to sharing NSHD data with bona fide researchers for high quality research projects. Data requests should be submitted via the existing NSHD research governance arrangements. See for details