What is a Longitudinal Study? Definition, Types & Examples

What is a Longitudinal Study?

Types of Longitudinal Studies

Panel Study

Cohort Study

Retrospective Study

Pros and Cons of Longitudinal Research Design

Advantages of Longitudinal Studies

  1. Rigorous Insights: A one-off online survey, no matter how well designed, is only so rigorous. Even though the results are often useful, sometimes you need more rigor in your surveys. A longitudinal survey, by observing respondents over time, can offer more rigorous results.
  2. Long-term Data: When thinking about what is a longitudinal study, it is crucial to understand that it is best used for a specific type of data collection. When you need to understand trends over the longer term, longitudinal studies are best suited to that task.
  3. Discover Trends: Most companies, in one way or another, rely on trends they estimate will be relevant in the future. Longitudinal studies can be great at finding out those trends and capitalizing on them before the competition.
  4. Open To Surprises: When designing an online survey, it is very tough to allow for surprises. Mostly, you get what you ask for. With longitudinal surveys, you’re allowing for the possibility that you might spot patterns you didn’t imagine could exist. Longitudinal studies are more flexible in that regard, and allow us to discover the unexpected.

Disadvantages of Longitudinal Studies

  1. Higher Costs: Because longitudinal research needs to be conducted over time, and in some cases with the same set of people, they end up being costlier than one-off surveys. From conducting the observations to analyzing the data, it can add up financially. Using a cost-effective online survey tool like Surveysparrow can be one way to reduce costs.
  2. More Demanding: One of the biggest challenges you can face while conducting a survey is to get enough respondents. Even for normal online surveys, it can be tough to get people to take your survey. Longitudinal surveys are far more demanding, so it is unlikely that anyone will participate without strong incentives.
  3. Unpredictability: While unpredictability can sometimes be a good thing, at times it can also lead the whole exercise astray. The success of a longitudinal study depends not just on the resources you invest in it, but also on the respondents who have to participate in a long-term commitment. Things can go wrong when respondents are suddenly unavailable. That’s why there’s always an element of unpredictability with longitudinal surveys.
  4. Time-Consuming: Unlike simple online surveys, you don’t get the results instantly with longitudinal surveys. They require a certain vision, and you have to be patient enough to see it through to get your desired results.

Examples of Longitudinal Surveys

Australia’s ’45 and Up’ Survey

Smoking and Lung Cancer

Growing Up In Ireland

Wrapping Up

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