Attrition and health in ageing studies: evidence from ELSA and HRS

James Banks, Alastair Muriel, James P Smith


This paper investigates the characteristics associated with attrition in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), with a particular focus on whether attrition is systematically related to health outcomes and socioeconomic status. 


We have three main results. Firstly, raw attrition is greater in ELSA than in HRS but the potential survey-based explanations for this that we are able to consider do not, taken together, appear to explain the extent of this difference. Second, these differential attrition rates do not change the core conclusions regarding comparisons between the two countries of health and socioeconomic status. Finally, very few observable characteristics predict attrition in either study among those in their seventies. In the group aged 55-64, wealth appears to predict attrition in the U.S. (but not in England), and low education predicts attrition in England (but not the U.S.).  Since the more serious attrition problem exists in ELSA, we conduct additional analysis of attrition in that survey. We find that respondents' level of numeracy strongly predicts attrition, but this does not account for the education gradient in attrition in ELSA.

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2014 Longitudinal and Life Course Studies

This journal uses cookies in order to provide necessary site functionality such as authentication. For more information please see our cookies policy.