Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey methodology

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Reference period
29 Apr - 4 May 2020

Explanatory notes


This publication presents results from the third Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, conducted throughout Australia between the 29th of April and the 4th of May 2020.

It is the third 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.

Results from the second Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, released on the 1st of May, are available on the ABS website here.

The third survey collected data about changes to job situation, working from home arrangements, use of health services and barriers to accessing health services, precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, social distancing behaviours, personal and household stressors, ability to receive required support from other people or agencies, and lifestyle changes. 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) who completed those household details became the person selected for the survey. Their participation in the survey was voluntary and respondents had the option of opting out at any point.

Of the 1,180 starting panel in the first survey, 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%. This defined the longitudinal panel for the remainder of the upcoming surveys.

For this third survey, 1,022 adequately completed the survey (88.3% response rate from the original 1,158 panel). Of the 37 non-response households from the original panel, 29 households were identified as full refusals or sample loss, and will not be contacted for future cycles of the survey.

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 changes in non-response households across the first, second and third survey samples, the third survey was re-weighted 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 third Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey include:

  • current job situation;
  • working from home arrangements;
  • use of health services and barriers to accessing health services;
  • precautions taken due to COVID-19;
  • social distancing behaviours;
  • personal and household stressors;
  • ability to receive required support from other people or agencies; and
  • lifestyle changes.

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

Chronic conditions

Chronic conditions in this publication refer to self-reported conditions that were diagnosed by a doctor or nurse, which had lasted or were expected to last for 6 months or more for the following conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer (including remission)
  • Dementia (including Alzheimer’s)
  • Diabetes (excluding gestational diabetes)
  • Heart disease (including heart attack or angina)
  • Kidney disease
  • Lung conditions (including COPD or emphysema)
  • Mental Health condition (including depression or anxiety)
  • Stroke

This definition is not comparable to the National Health Survey 2017-18.

Current job status

The survey collected information about the current job status of all respondents, and 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.

Health service use

The survey asked respondents if they had experienced difficulty accessing health professionals in person in the last four weeks and whether they had used a Telehealth service.

A Telehealth service refers to any health service delivered via telephone, video conferencing, or other communication technology.

Examples of health professionals include a general practitioner (GP), nurse, psychiatrist, psychologist, physiotherapist, dietician, audiologist, and diabetes educator.

The data was designed to provide a snapshot of the changes being experienced by Australians due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health service use questions are not comparable to the 2018-19 Patient Experience Survey.

Household stressors

The survey collected information from respondents about whether they or other persons in their household had experienced employment-related, housing or other financial stressors due to COVID-19. Respondents were asked simple questions about their experiences, rather than calculations of economic stress based on financial and housing costs data captured in the ABS' Survey of Income and Housing (see Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, 6553.0).

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).

Support networks

The survey collected information from respondents about whether they sought support from others for tasks they would normally do themselves or for other reasons, such as financial help, due to COVID-19. Questions covered the extent to which people were receiving the support they needed and who they received support from. ‘Support’ includes support from friends and family for personal or administrative reasons, or support from agencies and services. For comparison, this publication presents selected 2014 General Social Survey data items: Ability to get support in times of crisis, and Source(s) of support in time of crisis. (see General Social Survey, 4159.0).


The data cubes containing all tables for this publication in Excel spreadsheet format are available from the Data downloads section. The spreadsheets present tables of proportions and their corresponding Margin of Error (MoE).


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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