Explore the different domains of self-reported physical activity measured across selected CLOSER studies
The five studies included in this comparison are: NSHD, NCDS, BCS70, ALSPAC, and MCS. We have not included UKHLS in our comparability section given its different study design as age cannot be separated out. Each study has collected a wealth of physical activity data across different domains, although the ages of collections and frequency of collections differs (see the table below). We will summarise the study data available in childhood and adulthood in each domain: leisure, occupational, active travel, domestic, and sedentary behaviour. This will be followed by a discussion on the cross-study comparability of the variables at similar ages. This is intended to be illustrative rather than definitive or exhaustive; interested readers may well choose to make cross or within-study comparisons using different measures (see the electronic appendix for further detail).
Where questions and response scales are sufficiently comparable, it is possible to compare the absolute levels of activity between studies—this is noted in the text below. In most instances however, due to differences in question wording, the measures are likely only comparable in terms of rank ordering, such that the relative ranking of participants from inactive to most active may be comparable across studies. While this does not enable comparison of absolute levels across studies, it may form the basis for cross-study comparisons of associations, where physical activity levels are the exposure or outcome of interest.
In terms of comparability, it is key to note that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the behaviour of many individuals, so the measures from these waves may not reflect “normal” activity had the pandemic not occurred.
|Age range of measure||Leisure time activity||Occupational activity||Active travel||Domestic activity||Sedentary behaviour||Accelerometry|
|4-6y||BCS70, ALSPAC, MCS||ALSPAC, MCS||ALSPAC, MCS|
|7-10y||BCS70, ALSPAC, MCS||ALSPAC, MCS||ALSPAC, MCS||MCS|
|11-13y||NCDS, BCS70, ALSPAC, MCS||ALSPAC, MCS||BCS70, ALSPAC, MCS||ALSPAC|
|14-16y||NCDS, BCS70, ALSPAC, MCS||ALSPAC, MCS||BCS70||BCS70, ALSPAC, MCS||ALSPAC, MCS|
|22-29y||NCDS, ALSPAC*||ALSPAC||NCDS, ALSPAC*|
|33-36y||NSHD, NCDS, BCS70||NSHD, NCDS||NSHD, NCDS||NSHD, NCDS|
|42-46y||NSHD, NCDS, BCS70||NCDS, BCS70||NCDS||NSHD, NCDS, BCS70||NCDS, BCS70||BCS70|
|50-55y||NSHD, NCDS, BCS70*||NCDS||NSHD, NCDS, BCS70*|
|60-64y||NSHD, NCDS*||NSHD||NSHD||NSHD, NCDS*||NSHD, NCDS*||NSHD|
Notes: NSHD: MRC National Survey of Health and Development (1946); NCDS: National Child Development Study (1958); BCS70: British Cohort Study 1970; ALSPAC: Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (1991-1992); MCS: Millennium Cohort Study (2001).
Accelerometry – MCS: 7y = Actigraph GT1M accelerometer, 14y = GENEActiv accelerometer; ALSPAC: 12, 14, 16, 25y = Actigraph accelerometer; BCS70: 46-48y = ActivPal accelerometer; NSHD: 60-64y = ActiHeart actigraph, 69y = GCDC X15-1c triaxial accelerometer.
Only main study members are included, parents/carer information or other family members are excluded (e.g. ALSPAC mothers).
* indicates data from a COVID-19 survey wave is included (there may also be data from non-COVID waves from that study in the specified age range)
- Leisure time physical activity
- Occupational activity
- Active travel
- Domestic activities
- Sedentary behaviour
Learn more about the individual studies covered by this guide and their measurement of physical activity:
- 1946 National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD)
- 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS)
- 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70)
- Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)
- Millennium Cohort Study (MCS)
- Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS)
- Acknowledgements and copyright information for this guide
- References for this guide
- Download the full guide as a PDF
- Electronic appendix: Index of all documented measures
This page is part of the CLOSER resource: ‘Physical activity across age and study: a guide to data in six CLOSER studies’.