Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Completed Projects

Project Title:

Using the SLS to study flows between the economic active and inactive groups and the link with health status

Project Number:



Judith Brown (University of Glasgow)
Ewan Macdonald (University of Glasgow)
Phil Hanlon (University of Glasgow)
Ivan Turok (University of Glasgow)
David Webster (University of Glasgow)
James Arnott (University of Glasgow)

Start Date:

Approved on 06-02-2008


The GCPH provided a grant to explore the IB population in Glasgow. A report was published in July 2007 (ref 1). The report has added considerably to our understanding of the stock IB claimants as well as the differing makeup of the ‘on’ and ‘off’ flow populations. The report showed Glasgow has a particular problem in terms of the absolute size of its IB claimant population (61,850 in 2005) and the fact that this population represents such a high proportion of the working age population (16.4% in 2005). Between the years 2000 and 2005, there has been a reduction in IB stock claimants in Glasgow and the rest of Scotland. This is mainly due to a decrease in on flow. In Glasgow, the largest proportion of IB claimants are in the 40-60 age group, which has increased between 2000 and 2005 as well. Strikingly, 35% of 55-59 year olds in Glasgow are on IB. Mental health problems account for 50% of those claiming IB in Glasgow. The size of the IB population is declining slowly mainly because the rate of on flow has been reduced. Although the on flow rate remains higher in Glasgow than Scotland, the rate of on flow in Glasgow has fallen by 21% while in Scotland the rate of on flow has fallen by 16% since 2000. The absolute number of claimants moving off IB has remained fairly constant however the rate of off flow has increased in both Glasgow and Scotland. Although Glasgow still has lower off flow rates, some progress has been made towards closing the gap with the rest of Scotland.

We anticipate that these results will have important policy implications. However, continuing analysis that made even better use of routine sources of data could discover much more. Also, studies that provided more detail about the working age population, labour force and IB population could answer many questions that have been raised by phase 1. Most importantly, Glasgow needs a mechanism to judge the impact of the many initiatives currently being directed towards the IB population. For these reasons, a second phase of work is proposed.

Phase 2 will result in a report being produced for the GCPH outlining the potential for using data (including the SLS) to understand the IB population and the flows on and off IB in Glasgow. It is hoped to develop a methodology which will allow us to report on the number and nature of the stock IB population, on and off flow in as close to real time as possible.

Much has been learned in phase 1 of our study (ref 1) about the potential for using route data to understand the Incapacity Benefit (IB) population. In phase 2, this knowledge will be used to make further enquiries about the availability and potential uses of further DWP data and other datasets including the SLS. The aims of the SLS project are:

  • How do people who were sick/disabled in 1991 compare in 2001 in terms of economic activity, health, demographic variables and socioeconomic indicators?
  • How do death rates between 1991 and 2001 compare between the different economic activity groups?
  • How do people who were sick/disabled in 2001 compare in 1991 in terms of economic activity, health, demographic variables and socioeconomic indicators?


  1. Judith Brown, Phil Hanlon, David Webster, Ivan Turok, James Arnott, Ewan Macdonald. Turning the tap off! Incapacity Benefit in Glasgow and Scotland: Trends over the past five years. Produced for the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, July 2007.

  2. Brown J, Hanlon P, Turok I, Webster D, Arnott J, & Macdonald EB. Establishing the potential for using routine data on Incapacity Benefit to assess the local impact of policy initiatives. Journal of Public Health. Accepted for publication October 2007. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdm074

  3. Fieldhouse E & Hollywood E. Life after mining: Hidden unemployment and changing patterns of economic activity amongst miners in England and Wales 1982-1991. Work, Employment & Society (1999) Vol 13, No 3, pp 483-502.

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