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NatCen 2018: A year in review

Posted on 31 December 2018 by Luca Tiratelli, Research Assistant

Day to day, week to week, the National Centre for Social Research does so much work across so many areas that keeping track of it all is almost a full-time job in itself. In 2018, we have worked on 266 projects across all our research teams. 667 people have signed up for our events, and we’ve appeared in the pages and on the websites of the national press over 750 times.

Here’s a (very!) brief overview of the highlights:

British Social Attitudes

2018 saw the release of the 35th edition of the British Social Attitudes, NatCen’s flagship survey that has been running since 1983. This year’s report focused on the future challenges facing Britain as it reimagines its place in the world, be they social, economic or political. Chapters on employment, the 2017 General Election, Brexit, climate change, gender relations, social trust and Scottish independence covered a huge amount of ground, some of it familiar territory for the BSA, some of it less so.

The chapter on gender relations is a good example of the latter, providing fascinating new data on people’s view on traditional gender roles, sexual harassment and childcare. These findings led to extensive press coverage, as did the report overall, with Nancy Kelley, Roger Harding, Miranda Phillips and Daniel Phillips all being interviewed for TV and radio.


WhatUKThinks, NatCen’s project to provide non-partisan information on attitudes on the Brexit process, has continued to produce high quality reports, speaking to the issues that dominate the news agenda.

This year the project has explored whether people have changed their minds about Brexit, how Scottish voters have viewed the process thus far, and looked into the ‘emotional legacy’ of the referendum across the country.

Through these reports, we’ve shown that:

  • Far more people feel a strong attachment to Remain or Leave than consider themselves to be a supporter of a political party;
  • Both Remainers and Leavers are highly critical of the UK Government’s performance in negotiations;
  • Scottish voters favour powers being repatriated from Brussels, such as over fishing and farming, being immediately devolved to the Scottish Government, rather than remaining in Westminster.

Gig Economy

In response to 2017’s Taylor Review, NatCen was commissioned by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to produce a report looking into the gig economy.

This research proved very timely, given the ongoing national conversation about changing working conditions in the UK. It also proved very significant, as the gig economy had not been formally defined before our study, making research into it very difficult.

We found that 4.4% of people in Britain had worked in the gig economy in the last 12 months, amounting to 2.8 million people, and that these people were largely young, with a real hub of activity in London. Most of the gig economy workers we talked to viewed it as a secondary source of income, and 74% were happy with their experience in the sector.

Mental Health of Children and Young People Survey

In November, NHS Digital published the first official statistics on mental health among people under 19 for 13 years, based on the survey we conducted with the Office for National Statistics. The updated statistics in this crucial area will be hugely informative to policy makers and practitioners going forward.

We found that 1 in 6 young people aged between 17 and 19 had some sort of mental health disorder. Girls in that age group were also found to have the highest rates of mental disorders of any group among young people.


These reports represent only a small fraction of what NatCen has achieved this year. Aside from these highlights, we continued to produce other flagship surveys across a range of areas, including the English Housing Survey, the Health Survey for England, the Scottish Health Survey, Growing Up in Scotland, the National Travel Survey, and many more.

Our mission is to use social research to improve society, and in 2018, we feel like we’ve done just that – roll on next year!

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