Difference Between Longitudinal and Cross Sectional Study

Surveys and studies help us forming a hypothesis or theory or even a strategy. Study as many tools to suit the aim of the observation. Different types of studies are able to present different aspects of analyse. Longitudinal study and cross sectional study are two examples of observational studies.

Longitudinal Study vs Cross Sectional Study

The main difference between longitudinal and cross sectional studies is that a longitudinal study is focused on the same sample, but it goes on for a long time. In contrast to that, a cross sectional study collects data from various people, but this happens at one particular time. The sample of study remains the same in a longitudinal study but sample changes in a cross sectional study.

Longitudinal Study and Cross Sectional Study

A longitudinal study is a study that concentrates on one single sample and observes it repetitively to track the change. It is not restricted to time. This survey turns out to be costly to pursue. It is used to notice the rate and reason for any developments or regression of something.

A cross-sectional study is like a survey in which lots of data is collected and then observed to get a conclusion. It is limited to only one time, and it can not provide any information beyond that. This can be done in a short time and without spending much money.

Comparison Table Between Longitudinal and Cross Sectional Study

Parameters of ComparisonLongitudinal StudyCross Sectional Study
Definition It is a study where one particular topic becomes the subject of repetitive examination to observe the changes over a period of time.In this study data from different people is collected at a specific time to observe.
Time frameIn this study, samples are observed repetitively over a period of time.In this study, the samples are observed at a specific point in time.
SamplesThe samples for observation remains the same.Different samples are subjected to observation.
ExpenseThis type of study is expensive.This type of study is not very expensive.
Cause and effect The relationship between cause and effect can be known through this study.This type of study can not determine the relationship between cause and effect.
Time consumptionThis study takes lots of time.This study is not very time-consuming.

What is Longitudinal Study?

A longitudinal study is a type of research that has been structured to observe a particular thing and observe the changes that take place over time. This also helps in experiments. One single sample becomes the point of observation repetitively. Day to day variation in behaviours, thoughts, and even emotions can be observed by using this study.

The longitudinal study can be utilised in various fields such as economics, epidemiology, sociology, geography, and even medicine. As this type of study is not restricted to one time, the changes, the improvements, developments everything can be detected. It is a time-consuming process and also expensive to some extent. And these can be marked as the disadvantages of this study.

Remarkable insights can be derived from this study. It gives the vivid relationship between cause and effect. Any event that is associated with growth or transition can be a subject of this type of study. This study can take place with a small sample, and the survey results are competent enough to make an impact.

What is Short Cross Sectional Study?

To conduct a cross sectional study, data is collected from different people. This study is limited to a specific point in time. The researcher observes the collected data and evaluates it to reach a conclusion. This consists of the general data of the people, and thus the researcher can study the factors of the population and society at that very time.

This study does not consume much time, and it does not cost much money as well. With the data, a researcher can measure the probable outcome. A lot of data gets collected in this study with which many variables can get compared.

This study can not determine the cause-and-effect relationships, and it is also unable to deliver any definite information as it is restricted to one time and can not say anything about before and after of that time.

Main Differences Between Longitudinal and Cross Sectional Study

  1. A longitudinal study is a type of study where one particular topic or subject becomes the centre of repetitive examination over a period of time and is a cross sectional study. The collection of data from different people takes place, which gets observed study at one specific time.
  2. A longitudinal study happens over a period of time, whereas a cross-sectional study happens at one particular time.
  3. The subject of each longitudinal study is fixed, while the time of each cross sectional study is fixed.
  4. A longitudinal study is proved to be expensive, but a cross sectional study is pocket friendly. It does not cost much.
  5. A longitudinal study gives accounts of changes in details over time, whereas a cross sectional study shows generalized public opinion.
  6. In a longitudinal study, a small amount of data is enough, but in a cross sectional study higher amount of data is collecting.


To get any hypothesis or any idea about something, one needs to observe. And this observation and study can be done by many methods of different studies. Longitudinal study and cross sectional study are examples of such two studies. Both these have different procedures and are used to get different kinds of results.

A cross-sectional study is a much simpler study with the basic results, whereas a longitudinal study is complex and gives a detailed description of the advance of the study sample and also shows the cause of such for happening of such events.


  1. https://academic.oup.com/geronj/article-abstract/31/2/155/561776
  2. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=08902739&AN=39991847&h=sdh%2FO8pgNGs9KXspOAk%2B1deJBpNwernbaAk1zI5UbSz9fP8KlXO%2BsPtbcp6ljyzLnFeM49fAvveyZx%2Fshvd2jg%3D%3D&crl=c
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