Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey methodology

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Reference period
14-17 Apr 2020

Explanatory notes


This publication presents results from the second Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, conducted throughout Australia between the 14th and 17th of April 2020.

It is the second survey in a new series, designed to provide a quick snapshot about how people in Australian households are faring in response to the changing social and economic environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results from the first Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, released on the 20th of April, are available on the ABS website here.

The second survey collected data about feelings of emotional and mental wellbeing, contact with family and friends, financial stress, stimulus payments received and how used, and changes to job situation. This information is critical to informing the government response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia.

More Household Impacts of COVID-19 Surveys focusing on the real-time impacts of COVID-19 are in development, which will include both new topics and repeat topics from previous iterations to measure changes over time. Participants who took part in the first Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey will be asked to respond to the upcoming surveys to continue to build on the findings.

This release forms part of a suite of additional products that the ABS is producing to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on the Australian economy and society.

For more information refer to

Sample/panel design and estimation

The panel for the survey originally comprised 1,180 private dwellings which were sourced from a sample of approximately 3,000 households who had completed an on-line or telephone interview in late February/early March, collecting information about basic demographic characteristics of people living in the household. Primarily, the person (aged 18 years or over) selected for the survey was the person who completed the household form and agreed to participate.

Of the 1,180 starting panel, there were 22 dwellings identified as sample loss, leaving 1,158 dwellings. Of these, 1,059 adequately completed the first questionnaire, achieving an overall panel response rate of 91.5%, and defined the panel from which to move forward with.

For this second survey, 1,028 adequately completed the survey (88.8% response rate from the original 1,158 panel). Of the 31 non-response households, 12 households were identified as full refusals or sample loss, and will not be contacted for future cycles of the survey. The remainder were unable to be contacted or not available for this second cycle, but will form part of the third survey panel.

Participation in the survey was voluntary and respondents had the option of opting out at any point.

Although the panel selection methodology was not strictly a random sample, the coverage of selections included all Australian geographies (excluding very remote locations) to ensure national estimates could be produced.

Furthermore, this panel data was weight adjusted using the ABS Estimated Residential Population as at the end of March 2020. Benchmarks comprised Age, Sex, and Geographic variables. In addition, adjustments were made based on number of persons living in household and education level of the selected person.

Due to the small increase in non-response households between the first and second survey samples, the second survey was reweighted in order to maintain consistent full population estimates across the surveys.

Data collection

Telephone interviews were conducted with one randomly selected person aged 18 years and over who was a usual resident of the selected household.

Information was collected by specially trained ABS interviewers using a Computer Assisted Interview (CAI) instrument, whereby answers were recorded on a computer device.

The topics covered in the second Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey include:

  • feelings of emotional and mental wellbeing;
  • contact with family and friends;
  • financial stress;
  • stimulus payments received and how used; and
  • changes to job situation.

For a full list of data items collected, refer to the Data Item List available for download from the Data downloads section.

The survey collected information about self-reported changes to job situation in the two weeks prior to survey. The survey was designed to provide a snapshot of the changes being experienced by Australians due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents were asked simple questions about changes to their job situation, rather than the full suite of employment-related questions included in the ABS' Labour Force Survey (see Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey, cat. no. 6232.0). The results of this survey are, therefore, not directly comparable to Australia’s official labour force measures.

For more information about measuring the labour market impacts of COVID-19 please see the educational piece Measuring the Labour Market impacts of COVID-19.

Emotional and mental wellbeing

Information on emotional and mental wellbeing was collected using questions from the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale - 6 (K6). Respondents were asked how often in the last four weeks they had felt:

  • Nervous;
  • Hopeless;
  • Restless or fidgety;
  • That everything was an effort; and
  • So depressed that nothing could cheer you up.

A five-level response scale was used to assess how frequently a respondent experienced each particular feeling. The response options were:

  • None of the time;
  • A little of the time;
  • Some of the time;
  • Most of the time; and
  • All of the time.

Respondents who answered 'A little of the time', 'Some of the time', 'Most of the time' or 'All of the time' to any feeling were then asked how many times they had discussed their feelings with a doctor or other health professional in the last four weeks.

Relative standard error

In this publication, the standard error of the estimate is expressed as a percentage of the estimate, known as the relative standard error (RSE), which is a useful measure as it indicates the size of the error relative to the estimate.

Only data with an RSE of less than 25% are considered sufficiently reliable for most analytical purposes. However, estimates with an RSE over 25% are also published. Estimates with an RSE in the range 25% to 50% are less reliable and should be used with caution, while estimates with an RSE greater than 50% are considered too unreliable for general use.

Margin of error

Margin of Error (MoE), describes the distance from the population value that the sample estimate is likely to be within, and is specified at a given level of confidence. MoEs presented in this publication are at the 95% confidence level. This means that there are 19 chances in 20 that the estimate will differ by less than the specified MoE from the population value (the figure obtained if all in-scope dwellings had been enumerated).


The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. This requirement means that the ABS must take care and make assurances that any statistical information about individual respondents cannot be derived from published data.


The ABS would like to thank all participants for their involvement in the survey. The information collected is critical to informing the government response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia.

ABS surveys draw extensively on information provided by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated and without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


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