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Dietary data in Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study

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Learn about Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) and its dietary measurement

Summary of study

Understanding Society, also known as The UK Household Longitudinal study (UKHLS), is a panel study of approximately 40,000 households in the UK which began in 2009 [82]. All members of the household aged 16 years and over complete a survey on a yearly basis. Interviews are via an online questionnaire or by a face-to-face or telephone interview. Each wave takes place over a 24-month period [82]. Members of the household who are aged 10-15 years are asked to complete a short self-completion youth questionnaire until they reach 16 years. UKHLS has a complex sample design which has been outlined in detail in a previous report [83]. Briefly, the overall survey consists of: a general population sample, members of the British Household Panel Survey (which ran from 1991/92 to 2008/09 (from Wave 2)), and an immigrant and ethnic minority boost sample from Wave 6 onwards.

The overall aim of UKHLS is to provide longitudinal data to describe the health, work, and education, economic, social and family life of the UK population and provide a platform to understand social and economic change and policy interventions.


Dietary data collection

While there were no FFQs or diet diaries collected, there are a number of diet-related questions (see the table below). From Wave 7, some of these questions were based on the Eating Choice Index which has been shown in NSHD to discriminate unhealthy and healthy eating [50].

In addition to the questions in the below, mothers answered information about their child’s breastfeeding including age when breastfeeding was stopped.

Diet-related questions in UKHLS

QuestionIndex termDatafile*1991-20082009-112010-122011-132012-142013-152014-162015-172016-182017-192018-202019-212020-20212020-2021
Data deposit20112012201320142015201620172018201920202021July 2020January 2021
Questionnaire sourceYouth questionnaireQuestionnaire / Youth questionnaireYouth questionnaireQuestionnaire / Youth questionnaireQuestionnaire / Youth questionnaireQuestionnaire / Youth questionnaireQuestionnaire / Youth questionnaireQuestionnaire / Youth questionnaireQuestionnaire / Youth questionnaireQuestionnaireQuestionnaire / Youth questionnaireQuestionnaireQuestionnaire
Eat meat, chicken, fish every second day (yes/no) hscanehhresp
Does the child eat fruit and/or vegetables every day (yes/no) cdepdo5hhresp
Frequency of eating out§lacteindresp
Frequency of fruit (frozen, dried and fresh) |wkfruitindresp
Frequency of vegetables (tinned, frozen, dried and fresh, not potatoes) |wkvegeindresp
On days you eat it, number of portions of fresh fruit and vegetables per dayfruvegeindresp
On days you eat it, number of portions of fruitfruitamtindresp
On days you eat it, number of portions of vegetables vegeamtindresp
Type of milk usedusdairyindresp
Type of bread used**usbreadindresp
Number of days breakfast consumedbreakfstindresp
Eats food from where born††food1indresp
Eats food from mother's country of birth††food2indresp
Eats food from father's country of birth††food3indresp
Eats food from maternal grandmother's country of birth††food4indresp
Eats food from maternal grandfather’s country of birth††food5indresp
Eats food from paternal grandmother's country of birth††food6indresp
Eats food from paternal grandfather’s country of birth††food7indresp
Frequency of fresh fruit or vegetables‡‡ypfrutyouth
Number of portions of fresh fruit and vegetables per day§§ypfrutppdyouth
Frequency of fast food‡‡ypffdyouth
Frequency of breakfast‡‡ypffdwkyouth
Frequency of crisps, sweets or fizzy drinks‡‡ypjfdyouth

Questionnaire links are provided to CLOSER Discovery (interactive version) or original study PDF as applicable.
* hhresp: household level; indresp: individual level; All index terms are searchable at:
† Not all waves of BHPS asked these questions; see questionnaires for details:
‡ These questions were designed to assess derivation rather than diet.

Response options.
§ At least once a week/at least once a month/several times a year/once a year or less/never or almost never.
| Never/1-3 days/4-6 days/every day.
¶ Whole/semi-skimmed/skimmed/soya/any other/ don’t use milk.
** White/wholemeal/Granary or wholegrain/both brown and white/don’t eat bread /other type of bread.
†† Every day/3-6 days a week/ 1-2 days a week/a least monthly/at least every 6 months/rarely or never/special occasion.
‡‡ Every day or nearly/about once a week/every now and then/ never or hardly ever.
§§ 5 or more/3-4 portions/1-2 portions/none.



Response to dietary measures in UKHLS: Individual questionnaire

WaveN*Response (n(%))
250,68850,668 (99.9%)
540,97540,952 (99.9%)
739,33739,283 (99.9%)
88,0757,878 (97.6%)
934,95934,901 (99.8%)

*N= number of full interviews.
† Non-response = missing, don’t know, refusal responses; all figures are unweighted.
‡ Ethnic minority boosts only.


Response to dietary measures in UKHLS: Youth questionnaire

WaveN*Response (n(%))
14,8994,873 (99.5%)
25,0184,955 (98.7%)
34,4274,400 (99.4%)
44,0453,971 (98.2%)
53,6553,528 (96.5%)
63,4593,422 (98.9%)
73,6293,590 (98.9%)
83,2723,221 (98.4%)
92,8212,801 (99.3%)

* N= number of full interviews.
† Non-response = missing, don’t know, refusal responses; all figures are unweighted.


Key findings

The dietary data in UKHLS have not been used extensively.

The relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being

A paper using dietary data and mental wellbeing scores provides further evidence that persuading people to consume more fruits and vegetables may not only benefit their physical health in the long-run, but also their mental well-being in the short-run [84].

Consumption of ethnic food

An Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) working paper from 2014 found that the maintenance of an ethnic origin diet was associated with healthier eating patterns [85].

Diets of young people

Out of two papers examining diet in the youth sample, one found that the majority of them did not eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day and being a boy in lower income households and of Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnicity (compared with white ethnicity) were associated with lower odds of meeting dietary recommendations [86]. Higher fruit and vegetable intakes was associated with higher odds of happiness and lower odds of socio-emotional difficulties and consumption of fast food [87].


Learn about the other studies covered by this guide and their dietary measurements:

Get background detail on this guide:

Learn about harmonisation in the context of dietary data:

Further information:

This page is part of the CLOSER resource: ‘A guide to the dietary data in eight CLOSER studies’.