Welcome to Healthy Ageing In Scotland (HAGIS)!

HAIGS is the first longitudinal study of ageing in Scotland and it aims to improve the lives of elderly people living in Scotland. Scots are now living longer and the size of the older population is increasing.

Figures come from the National Records of Scotland mid-year population estimates. Available here  

The graph above shows the changing landscape of the Scottish population over the last 20 years. We can see that between 1994 and 2014, the proportion of the population made up of people over the age of 50 has risen by 7%. This changing structure means that we have a higher proportion of our population who are elderly and it is important that we can understand their ageing process so that they can live as long, healthy and happy lives as possible.

HAGIS is crucial to the achievement of this objective because it will shed new light on the social, health and economic aspects of the lives of older Scots. It is hoped that HAGIS will help answer questions such as:

  • Which factors are associated with successful ageing?
  • How do individuals plan for retirement?
  • Do individuals make well-informed decisions about retirement planning?
  • What is the relationship between social networks (i.e. how often you speak to or see friends/family/neighbours) and wellbeing?
  • How are the understanding of financial concepts and cognitive ageing related?
  • Who is providing care for our elderly population?
  • What are the reasons for people working beyond retirement age?

and many more. 

What is involved?

The HAGIS survey involves two stages. Firstly, participants are asked to undertake a face-to-face interview, and secondly, to complete a short questionnaire. For detailed information about participating in HAGIS, please see our Participant Information Booklet

The interview

A trained interviewer* will carry out the interview in the participant’s own home. The date and time of the interview will be pre-arranged between the interviewer and the participant, to ensure that the time of the interview is most suitable for the participant. The interview will mostly be a Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) whereby the interviewer asks questions from and records answers on a small tablet computer, with the exception of some questions which the participant will be asked to complete on a separate piece of paper. In total the interview will last between 60 and 75 minutes. Below is a list of the topics which will be covered in the interview:-

  • Basic demographics
  • Social circumstances
  • Physical health
  • Cognitive health
  • Activities of Daily Living and Helpers
  • Employment
  • Financial literacy
  • Health behavior
  • Income and assets
  • Expectations and retirement
  • Social participation

These topics have been chosen because they will help us to answer the important questions that will lead to the improved understanding of healthy and happy ageing in Scotland. If at any point in time a participant wants to pass on a question they can simply let the interviewer know. Naturally, the more questions that are answered the better but we absolutely appreciate that some participants may feel uncomfortable answering certain questions. In particular, the section on income and assets can often be sensitive for many people. We hope that participants can understand the importance of having information on these financial aspects, in order to help us understand and improve the financial situations of older people in Scotland. Of course, answers to all questions in the interview are kept completely confidential and used for research purposes only.

The self-completion questionnaire

Following the interview, participants will be asked to fill in a self-completion questionnaire in their own time. This should take around 15 minutes to complete. The self-completion questionnaire will cover topics such as: risk and time preference; life satisfaction; social activities; use of internet; family relationships; alcohol consumption; wellbeing. After finishing the self-completion questionnaire, participants are asked to post it back to the HAGIS team using the pre-paid envelope which is provided.

*Appointment of fieldwork agency who will carry out the interviews is subject to a competitive tender process to be carried out in August 2015.

Why participate?

As a participant in HAGIS, you will make a significant contribution to ageing research in Scotland, the rest of the UK and even around the world. By taking part in a longitudinal study like HAGIS, you will provide valuable information on different aspects of your life, which will help us to build a picture of what life is like for the over 50’s living in Scotland. If we can do this, then we can ensure that the UK and Scottish Governments design, plan and implement the most effective policies which affect the over 50’s. Of most importance are health, social care and pensions policy. In turn, these policies will contribute to successful ageing and improve the lives of the elderly population in Scotland, the rest of the UK, and around the world.

We will keep participants updated with the findings from HAGIS with regular newsletters and of course you can always check the website for the most recent information.

Ultimately, your participation is fundamental to the success of HAGIS. Without your help, we can’t answer the important questions that will help to improve our understanding of the ageing process, and create policies to ensure our elderly population enjoy as healthy and as happy lives as possible. Each question an individual participant answers will make a significant contribution to ageing research in Scotland. But together, participants will change the future of our elderly population for the better.









Facts International is the market research agency which has been appointed fieldwork partner of the HAGIS research programme. As a leading UK market research agency specialising in face-to-face and telephone interviewing along with online research, their team of award-winning face-to-face interviewers will visit homes across Scotland as part of this study.

All of Facts International’s interviewers are fully trained to Interviewer Quality Control Scheme (IQCS) standards and the team who will be working on the HAGIS study are experts in conducting in-home studies of a sensitive nature.

Crispin Beale, Facts International’s Chief Executive, is the current Chairman of the Market Research Society (MRS), and the UK Representative of the World Association of Opinion and Marketing Research Professionals (ESOMAR). This means that Facts International is well aligned to carry out longitudinal studies with global reach.

Project Director Gemma Stephenson will be operating the fieldwork element of this study on behalf of Facts International.

If you have received a letter from Facts International and would like to find out more about in-home visits, or arrange an appointment, please contact them on their dedicated participant telephone line 01233 648 490.


Data Confidentiality

The confidentiality of your data is of utmost importance to us. This means that you as an individual will not be identified in the HAGIS survey data or in any research publications that are produced using the HAGIS survey data.

In order to ensure that this is the case, your name and address will be removed from the survey data and stored separately in a secure location within the University of Stirling. In fact, when the HAGIS Team receive your survey responses from the market research company who conducted the interview with you, they will have already separated your name and address from your survey responses. The HAGIS Team will only ever conduct research using your anonymous survey responses. Furthermore, your name and address will only be used in the event that you agree to be re-contacted to take part in future waves of the HAGIS study. 

In addition to this, the main HAGIS Team, who are based in Stirling, have also undergone rigourous training in Information Governance and the ethical issues surrounding the use of data for research. This training covers a number of topics including the legal concepts and frameworks which govern the use of data; how to safely use data; and how to safely produce research outputs from such data. The Information Governance courses are primarily designed to ensure the safe use of data by researchers in order to protect the rights of you, the data subject. Please see below the details of the training that the HAGIS Team have undertaken. 

  • Professor David Bell- National Institute of Health (NIH): Protecting Human Subjects; Medical Research Council (MRC): Research Data and Confidentiality. 
  • Dr Alasdair Rutherford- National Institute of Health (NIH): Protecting Human Subjects; Medical Research Council (MRC): Research Data and Confidentiality;  Administrative Data Liason Service (ADLS): Safe Researcher Training; Administrative Data Research Centre Scotland (ADRC-Scotland): Accredidation Training. 
  • Dr Elaine Douglas- National Institute of Health (NIH): Protecting Human Subjects; Medical Research Council (MRC): Research Data and Confidentiality. 
  • Miss Elizabeth Lemmon- National Institute of Health (NIH): Protecting Human Subjects; Medical Research Council (MRC): Research Data and Confidentiality; Scottish Health Informatics Programme (SHIP): Information Governance; Administrative Data Research Centre Scotland (ADRC-Scotland): Accredidation Training. 

All HAGIS Team members will also be undergoing additional Information Governance training at the Administrative Data Research Centre Scotland (ADRC-Scotland) when the training takes place in January/February 2016. 

Data Security

The survey data collected will be held securely and processed by the fieldwork agency. Initial validation and analysis will be conducted at the University of Stirling, where the data will also be held securely and only members of the HAGIS Research Team will have access to the data. The Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) machines which will be used for the interviews, use whole disk encryption so are secure in the event of loss. Data is transmitted to our central CAPI server over a secure connection and sent in encrypted archives. Any personal data that needs to be passed between the fieldwork agency and the University would be provided in Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encrypted, self-decrypting archives and accessed through secure File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers. Access to the servers is by user name and password and we would provide an account to one authorised member of the HAGIS Team. That person will establish a PGP public key that will be used to encrypt the data. Anonymised survey data, along with linked administrative data, will be held securely in the 'Safe Haven' in Edinburgh's Bio Quarter- the Safe Haven is a secure setting in which data access is rigorously monitored and all outputs are checked to ensure they comply with confidentiality requirements. All survey responses will be anonymised and stored on the UK Data Archive.

Frequently asked questions

Who is conducting the project?

The HAGIS project is being carried out by the University of Stirling in partnership with a multi disciplinary group of other academic researchers in Scotland who have an interest and expertise in ageing research. In particular, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde. For further information on the HAGIS team, please see the biographies here. The HAGIS interviews will be carried out by highly trained and experienced interviewers from a feildwork agency. The appointment of the successful fieldwork agency is subject to a competitive tender process which is being carried out throughout November/December 2015.

How are participants selected to participate?

In order to be asked to take part in the HAGIS survey, your address must be randomly selected from the Post Code Address File (PAF). The PAF is the Royal Mail database of 29.5million addresses in the UK, constantly updated to keep in line with evolving businesses and new properties. If your address is selected, the HAGIS team will send a letter to your house to explain what HAGIS is about, and to ask you if you would be willing to participate in an interview.  

Do I have to participate if I am selected?

No. Your participation in HAGIS is entirely voluntary. If you are selected to particiapte in HAGIS you will receive a letter which will give you details about the HAGIS study and information about what taking part will involve. This letter will also include the details of how to opt out of participation in the study. 

What happens if someone agrees to participate but then changes their mind?

Participants are free to opt out of the study at any time.

What if I do not want to answer a question during the interview?

If you do not want to answer a question during the interview, for whatever reason, just let your interviewer know and they will move on to the next question. You do not have to give a reason for wishing to skip a question. Of course, the more questions you can answer the better, and your responses will be kept confidential, but you are under no obligation to provide an answer to a question if you do not want to.

How will the information from the survey be used?

The information collected in the pilot phase of HAGIS will be used by the HAGIS team to inform the full scale version of the study in terms of how participants are selected, what questions are asked and to test the possible linkage of the survey data with other administrative datasets. The pilot data, and data from future waves of HAGIS, will be used by researchers to shed light on a number of health, wellbeing and economic issues that are related to ageing.

We will keep you updated with a newsletter on how the results from HAGIS are being used. We will also regularly update our website with any research outputs from the HAGIS survey. 

Who should I contact for more information? 

For all enquiries please email the HAGIS team at or write to us at:-

Healthy Ageing In Scotland (HAGIS)
University of Stirling
Division of Economics
Cottrell Building
United Kingdom

Alternatively, give Elaine Douglas a phone on 01786 467477.

Links to other ageing studies

Links to useful study document