During the Second World War, and against a background of rising concern about poverty, ill health, poor housing conditions, unemployment and a falling birth-rate, scientists from a range of disciplines formed a committee to develop a new national enquiry. Its aim was to survey existing maternity services, particularly with regard to cost and quality in relation to income. It also had the longer-term aim of recommending how these services could be reconstructed after the war.

The Maternity Survey attempted to interview all women who gave birth during a single week in March 1946. The interviews were conducted by Health Visitors during the normal course of their routine duties at the eight week check up point. The interviews were completed in mid-June, by which time 13,687 mothers had been interviewed: 91% of all who gave birth during that week.

Concern over the findings from the Maternity Survey led to funding to follow up 5,362 of the original infants. This sample became known as the MRC National Survey for Health and Development (NSHD).

The NSHD has collected information from its study members twice in the pre-school years, eight times during the school years up to age 15, seven times between then and age 30, twice in their thirties, once in their forties and fifties, and twice in their sixties.
In addition, women in the survey received annual questionnaires about their health around the time of menopause, and the first born children of study members were studied twice: when they were aged four and eight years.

An updated cohort profile covering the most recent data collection can be found in Kuh et al. 2016 (J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016 Oct;101(10):3827-3837).

Previous reviews of response rates and of the responding populations' representativeness in previous waves can be found in:

Please follow the links below to see more information on the Maternity Sample, the NSHD Sample, and NSHD Data Collections.

  • nshd/background.txt
  • Last modified: 21 months ago
  • by nmpo