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Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing

ELSA report: Older people more likely to take part in social activities

3 November 2014

A new report from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) found that the likelihood of retired people being ‘socially engaged’ is 80 per cent higher than people working full time.

Analysis found that older people are more likely to take part in social activities such as joining a political party or church group when they retire.  The report, ‘The dynamics of ageing: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing 2002-12’, details the sixth wave of data collection which was carried out in 2012–13 is authored by University of Manchester academics Professors James Banks (economics) and James Nazroo (sociology) with UCL colleague Andrew Steptoe.

On retirement, income falls significantly and the report show that older people participate less in pastimes that cost money, such as the theatre or cinema.  Instead, the report shows, retirees are discovering alternative ways of staying socially active and when they leave work they increase their involvement in education classes, political activism, church groups etc. “Retirement seems to be giving many older people new opportunities” said Professor James Nazroo, “Importantly, it is people with low levels of social engagement and therefore those who would appear to be most vulnerable to becoming isolated, who are becoming more active on retirement.”

The ELSA report also highlights that many elderly people still risk becoming isolated once they leave full time employment, particularly if they are forced to sell their car or do not have good access to public transport.  The analysis shows that what determines whether an older person remains socially active is dependent on their level of income. 

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing is a multidisciplinary study of a large representative sample of men and women aged 50 and over living in England. ELSA was designed to understand the dynamics of ageing as people move through their later years and the relationships between demographic factors, economic circumstances, social and psychological factors, health, cognitive function and biology. The study began in 2002 and the sample is re-examined every two years. This report details the sixth wave of data collection, which was carried out in 2012–13. Wave 6 of ELSA involved both the standard face-to-face interview conducted in every wave and a nurse visit during which functional capacity, physiological measures and biomarkers were assessed.

ELSA provides crucial evidence about population ageing that is relevant in a variety of policy arenas, from pensions and later-life working practices to health, well-being, transport, social engagement and cultural activity. It is also a valuable resource for academic researchers involved in economics, epidemiology and social science. An immense amount of detailed information has been collected from participants in the study, and a single report cannot do justice to the depth and richness of the data set.

For more information and to view the full report please follow the link below:

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