We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Longitudinal Study?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
InfoBloom is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At InfoBloom, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A longitudinal study is a research project that involves the observation of one or more sample groups over a long time, anywhere from a few months to 30 years or more. Such studies are invaluable to social science; they allow researchers to track changes and trends in individual behavior, societal development, relationships, and many other variables. A longitudinal study might be conducted by psychologists, sociologists, medical researchers, environmental scientists, anthropologists, or other experts who want to obtain reliable information about a population over time.

Longitudinal studies are especially important to research psychologists and sociologists who want to learn about correlations and trends in human behavior. A research psychology team might, for example, wish to find out if children of alcoholics are more likely than other children to develop behavioral problems and alcoholism later in life. The team would select a large population of very similar children, such as four-year-old males with alcoholic fathers in a given city. Researchers might interview the children, their parents, and their teachers annually over a period of 20 years, recording answers in the same manner each year. After the longitudinal study period, the researchers would organize data on each child and look for correlations in the results to determine if predictions can be made about other children of alcoholics.

Researchers have discovered many benefits of conducting longitudinal studies over laboratory experiments and short-term clinical trials. A longitudinal study allows scientists to observe changes in people as they live in the real world, interact with others, experience struggles, and enjoy successes. Using a longitudinal study research team can get a better idea of how a certain inherited disease, such as cystic fibrosis, affects people over the course of their lives. Longitudinal studies are also effective at tracking societal conditions, such as poverty rates, over several decades so that new public policies can be developed.

There are certain cases, however, when longitudinal studies are less accurate than direct, clinical experiments and trials. A pharmaceutical company that wants to test a new drug would likely conduct several clinical trials with many different sample groups instead of observing a single group of participants over time. The company would want to learn about immediate reactions and side effects during a controlled experiment to determine whether or not the drug is safe to market commercially. A longitudinal study simply introduces too many variables to pinpoint the effectiveness of a drug. Participants might not take the recommended doses, undergo positive or negative lifestyle changes, or report inaccurate information to researchers.

InfoBloom is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By liveoak — On Apr 28, 2011

I once participated in a drug study. I went to a facility and was given the medication. I then had a form which I used to record any side effects I had.

Our group leader later said that since all of us in the study had MS, that the study was also known as a cross-sectional study. I have never heard of that before. She said it referred to the fact that we all have an illness, and we were being monitored over a period of time.

All I know is that in the end, I got paid for my participation and I found the experience to be rewarding. Not only did I receive treatment, but I helped others by recording my experiences with the drug.

By KristiLee — On Apr 26, 2011

A really fun way to check out a longitudinal study is to watch the British documentary "Up." It follows a group of British people from early childhood onward with the hypothesis that a person's social class will likely remain the same throughout their entire life. The researchers interview the participants every seven years. It's also an interesting insight into British culture in the 1960's. The study is still going on today with the next set of interviews scheduled for this year.

InfoBloom, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

InfoBloom, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.