Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS)
The Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS) is a wide-ranging database of people and their major life events, stretching back decades. It is proportionally the largest longitudinal study in the UK covering 28% of the Northern Ireland population and accounting for approximately 50% of Northern Ireland households.
The NILS ‘core’ data are drawn from the Health Card Registration data and then linked to Census returns (1981, 1991, 2001 & 2011, and 2021), Vital Events (births, deaths, and marriages), and Migration and Property data. The result is over 30 years of longitudinal data which are regularly being updated. In addition to this rich resource there is the potential to link further Health and Social Care data via Distinct Linkage Projects as well as the option of using the Northern Ireland Mortality Study (NIMS) for more detailed investigation into NI mortality patterns.
The project aims are to:
- Facilitate access to these data for academic and non-academic users
- Develop research capacity for longitudinal analysis
- Promote the academic and social impact of research done using the NILS
- Advocate for further NILS development through data linkage
- Work with other ESRC data infrastructure investments
More details on our work are available here: https://www.nils-rsu.co.uk/ and here: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/support/research-support/northern-ireland-longitudinal-study-nils
Impact of Research
Since the foundation of the NILS in 2006, usage and output have been on an upwards curve. From April 2018 until April 2020, 33 projects were completed and 19 new projects approved. The same period saw 106 final outputs, 23 of which were intended for peer-reviewed journals, and 33 for conference presentations plus 1,543 intermediate outputs. The article outputs have been to strong journals such as The Lancet, the European Journal of Public Health, Health and Place, and Population, Space and Place. There were also 1,390 room bookings during this period. In total, over 100 projects have been completed since 2006, and the NILS data has also supported six recently finished or ongoing PhD projects. Users of NILS data come from Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK, and from the EU. The data have been used for government research on social deprivation and the Irish language and there is regular engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive.
Major grants and funding
The project has received over £1million in funding since 2011, £0.5million of which supported the linkage of 1991 and 1981 census data to the NILS. Funded research using the NILS has included PhD awards and projects supported by the ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative.
Shuttleworth, I., Foley, B. and Champion, T., 2020. Internal migration in Northern Ireland: Are people becoming more stuck in place?. Population, Space and Place, DOI: 10.1002/psp.2338
Shuttleworth, I., Foley, B., Gould, M. and Champion, T., 2021. Residential mobility in divided societies: How individual religion and geographical context influenced housing moves in Northern Ireland 2001–2011. Population, Space and Place, 27(2), DOI: 10.1002/psp.2387
Kinnear, H., Rosato, M., Mairs, A., Hall, C. and O’Reilly, D., 2011. The low uptake of breast screening in cities is a major public health issue and may be due to organisational factors: A Census-based record linkage study. The Breast, 20(5), pp.460-463
Moriarty, J., Maguire, A., O’Reilly, D. and McCann, M., 2015. Bereavement after informal caregiving: assessing mental health burden using linked population data. American Journal of Public Health, 105(8), pp.1630-1637
Uggla, C. and Mace, R., 2017. Adult sex ratio and social status predict mating and parenting strategies in Northern Ireland. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 372(1729), p.20160318.
Part of the NILS-RSU Research Support Team is based in QUB. There are five key members of the team who are responsible for developing project ideas, initiating partnerships with external organisations, promoting the research potential of the NILS, and the results arising from NILS-related work.
- Dr Ian Shuttleworth, Principal Investigator
- Prof Duncan McVicar, Co-Investigator
- Dr Aideen Maguire, Co-Investigator
- Prof Tony Gallagher, Co-Investigator
- Dr John Moriarty, Co-Investigator
- Dr Estelle Lowry, Research Fellow
The NILS receives funding from the ESRC, NISRA, and the Public Health Agency and is an example of a QUB/government partnership. NISRA and the Business Services Organisation (BSO) provide much of the data on which the NILS is based, and NISRA undertakes data linkage for the NILS.
Sustainable Development Goals
The NILS has a specific public health remit so this has been a focus for research. Alongside this, NILS projects have also investigated social inequalities, migration, labour market inequalities, and fertility. See https://www.nils-rsu.co.uk/research/ for more details on research themes. This breadth means that the NILS contributes to the following three SDGs:
- Good health and wellbeing
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
Find out more
Keywords associated with the Research
Longitudinal analysis; census; administrative data; research support
Contact Details / Social Media
Further relevant info
NILS website: https://www.nils-rsu.co.uk/
- England and Wales longitudinal study: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/epidemiology-health-care/research/epidemiology-and-public-health/research/health-and-social-surveys-research-group/studies-10
- Shared site: https://calls.ac.uk/