The Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing

The Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ALSA) is Australia's first multi-dimensional population based study of human ageing. The ALSA commenced in 1992 (under the direction of the late Prof Gary Andrews), with 2087 participants aged 70 years or more. At Baseline, a comprehensive personal interview and assessment of neuropsychological and physiological functions was undertaken at each person's home, supplemented by self-completed questionnaires, biochemistry, and additional clinical studies of physical function. Since then a further 12 waves (13 in total as at 2014) have been completed (some being short telephone interviews).

The general purpose of the ALSA study is to gain further understanding of how social, biomedical and environmental factors are associated with age related changes in health and well-being of persons aged 70 years and over. Emphasis is given in the overall study to defining and exploring the concept of healthy, active ageing, particularly in a South Australian context. The research has a number of specific objectives. These include:

  • determination of levels of health and functional status of an older population and to track the changes in these characteristics over time
  • identification of factors which promote and maintain health and well-being in an ageing population
  • identification of risk factors for major morbid conditions and social, behavioural and other problems among an ageing population
  • analysis of the effects on transitions in health and functional status of age, gender, different patterns of co-morbidity, availability and nature of informal and formal support arrangements, social and economic circumstances, health care provision and utilisation and other variables of interest
  • assessment of the effects of disease processes on functional status and the demand for health care services and both informal and formal long term care
  • examination of the patterns of, the need for, and the utilisation of informal and formal sources of long-term care as they relate to social support networks, economic and housing conditions, care giving arrangements and the availability of appropriate services and
  • examination of mortality outcomes in the light of changes in health and functional status, medical interventions, self-assessed health, social networks, and individual psychological characteristics

The breadth and scope of ALSA are unusual, even by comparison with longitudinal studies of ageing conducted in other countries. For instance, at Baseline, ALSA included both spouses of 565 married couples, who have been followed over the course of the study. The inclusion of both survey and clinical components makes it possible to link objective clinical measures with details of the lifestyle, attitudes and personal histories of respondents. With the added dimension of repeated observations over time, ALSA provides a richness of data not available in previous Australian studies, and promises to substantially increase our understanding of the quality of life of older South Australians.

Recent funding from the Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects Scheme will enable a multidisciplinary team of researchers to study Adelaideans now with an average age of 91 years. The investigative team consists of Prof Mary Luszcz, Dr Lynne Giles, Dr. Tim Windsor, Dr Ruth Walker, Dr Michelle Miller, Prof Denis Gerstorf, A/Prof Christiane Hoppmann and Dr. Helena Chui. The project, Resilient ageing and the oldest-old in the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing, will gather data on the fastest growing sector of the Australian population. This data will be combined with ALSA data collected previously to enable the dynamics of ageing to be revealed, i.e. it will look prospectively at risk and protective factors associated with ageing well.

The ALSA is also integral to a project funded by the Premiers Science Research Fund. The South Australian Population Health Intergenerational Research (SAPHIRe) project will provide valuable new insights into the complex factors that contribute to positive and negative health outcomes for people from childhood through to old age. The ALSA provides a protocol and data for the upper end of this intergenerational study. For the first time the ALSA protocol will be applied to a rural sample in Whyalla and a comparative sample in NorthWest Adelaide Health Study.

The material collected during the ALSA comprises the most comprehensive longitudinal
data base yet assembled on ageing Australians and it complements in a unique way
those available internationally. The findings of the ALSA are directly relevant to policy
formulation and planning of health and social services for an ageing population. Researchers have reported on the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing in over 200
publications including reports, book chapters, refereed journal articles, abstracts,
conference proceedings and theses. (See ALSA Bibliography.)

The Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing: 15 Years of Ageing in South Australia (PDF 1MB) provides a descriptive overview of the first 15 years of the study and its policy implications. This report was commissioned by the SA Government Dept of Families and Communities, Office for the Ageing.

Copies of this report can be downloaded from the web at the above link or are available on request.

Summary of domains used in each wave of ALSA (DOC 180KB) . This document provides an overview of the areas (domains) of investigation by wave in the ALSA. This should be a first port of call for researchers seeking more detail on the content of the study.

Copies of the Household Questionnaires from each wave can be downloaded here.
Wave 1.pdf (PDF 119KB) , Wave 2.pdf (PDF 145KB) , Wave 3.pdf (PDF 821KB) ,
Wave 4.pdf (PDF 564KB) , Wave 5.pdf (PDF 394KB) , Wave 6.pdf (PDF 533KB) ,
Wave 7.pdf (PDF 145KB) , Wave 8.pdf (PDF 428KB) , Wave 9.pdf (PDF 579KB) ,
Wave 10.pdf (PDF 801KB) , Wave 11.pdf (PDF 1MB) Wave 12 (PDF 604KB)  and  Wave 13 (PDF 665KB) .

Requesting ALSA data.

Clincal Questionaires and Self Complete Questionnaires are also available on request.