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Economic & Social Research Council

The better off sleep better

But how happy you are in your job affects the quality of your sleep

Analysis of the early data from Understanding Society based on 14,000 UK households found that overall the best sleep was reported by people with higher levels of education and by married people. The type of work a person does also impacts on sleep, with those in routine occupations reporting worse sleep than those in professional occupations.

Professor Sara Arber at the University of Surrey who analysed the findings said: "Given the links between sleep, social and economic circumstances and poor health found in this and other surveys, health promotion campaigns should be open to the possibility that the increased incidence of sleep problems among the disadvantaged in society may be one factor leading to their poorer health."

Understanding Society is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and managed by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at t the University of Essex. It follows 40,000 UK household over many years, and sleep data will be collected annually.

Initial analysis of the sleep data collected in the first survey also found that:

Men and women

Sleep medication

Researchers working on Understanding Society have also examined the data from the perspective of work and sleep. 15,000 employees were asked questions about their work and sleep patterns.

Work and length of sleep

Managerial duties

Job satisfaction and sleep


The first findings book is published online at http://research.understandingsociety.org.uk/findings/early-findings.

Individual chapters are also available to download.

The first set of data from Understanding Society is now available for researchers to use in their analysis. It can be accessed via the Economic and Social Data Service.

ISER Press Office:
Chris Garrington (Tel: 07546 11 76 73, email: cgarr@essex.ac.uk)

ESRC Press Office:
Danielle Moore (Tel: 01793 413122, email: danielle.moore@esrc.ac.uk )

Jeanine Woolley (Tel: 01793 413119, email: jeanine.woolley@esrc.ac.uk )


1. Professor Sara Arber is a professor of sociology co-director of the Centre for Research into Ageing and Gender (CRAG) at the University of Surrey. Sara's internationally recognised research has spanned inequalities in health, ageing and gender and has latterly pioneered the sociology of sleep. Mark Bryan is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Social and Economic Research. His research interests include working time, the impacts of training, the low-paid labour market, informal care giving, and the gender pay gap.

2. The findings above are taken from two chapters of 'Understanding Society: Early findings from the first wave of the UK's household longitudinal study'. Chapter 10 'Social and Health Patterning of Sleep Quality and Duration' by Sara Arber and Robert Meadows and chapter 5 'Measuring Work: prospects for labour market research in Understanding Society' by Mark L Bryan The full chapter can be found at http://research.understandingsociety.org.uk/findings/early-findings

3. Understanding Society is a world leading study of the socio-economic circumstances in 40,000 British households. The study allows for deeper analysis of a wide range of sections of the population as they respond to regional, national and international change. Understanding Society will greatly enhance our insight into the pathways that influence peoples longer term occupational trajectories; their health and well-being, their financial circumstances and personal relationships. Understanding Society also breaks new ground with its interdisciplinary focus. The study will capture biomedical data on 20,000 participants and place this alongside rich social histories, helping us weigh the extent to which people's environment influences their health.

4. Understanding Society has been commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The Research Team is led by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex. The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) delivers the Study.

5. The ESRC have contributed £27 million towards the funding of Understanding Society, and have successfully secured a total of £19.4 million from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Large Facilities Capital Fund. A further £2.61 million has been secured from a consortium of Government Departments. This funding will support the first five waves of the study until 2015. It is envisaged that the study will continue for up to 20 years.

6. The ESRC is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2010/11 is £218 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at www.esrc.ac.uk

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