Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey methodology

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Reference period
August 2020

Explanatory notes


This publication presents results from the first release from a new series of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. This is the first of a monthly cycle, conducted throughout Australia between 7 August and 17 August 2020, of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey.

This series is designed to provide insight into how the social and economic situation is changing for Australian households, with focus placed on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on lifestyle and wellbeing. It follows on from the previous series of eight fortnightly surveys between 1 April to 30 July 2020 which captured the experiences of Australian Households during the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.

The most recent results for the fortnightly survey (and links to past releases) can be found can be found in the Past and Future Releases menu of this publication. Some topics have been repeated in both the fortnightly and monthly survey. Where relevant, comparisons are made based on the weighted representative data for both surveys.

This publication forms part of a suite of additional products that the ABS produced to measure the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Australian economy and society.

For more information refer to the Measuring the impacts of COVID-19 update.

Sample/panel design and estimation

The panel for the survey comprised around 1500 private dwellings. A sample of over 4,900 private dwellings was selected to obtain responses from 1,561 fully responding dwellings. The person (aged 18 years or over) who completed household details became the person selected for the panel. Their participation in the survey was voluntary and respondents can opt out at any point.

The panel selection methodology was a random sample. The coverage of selections included all Australian geographies (excluding very remote locations) to ensure national estimates could be produced.

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

Due to the anticipated changes in non-responding households across the survey cycles, each survey sample will be re-weighted in order to maintain consistent full population estimates across the surveys.

Data collection

Information was gathered via online forms or telephone interviews. Interviews were conducted with any responsible person aged 18 years and over who was a usual resident of the selected household.

The topics covered in this first release of the new monthly series of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey include:

  • emotional and mental wellbeing
  • precautions taken due to COVID-19
  • household financial status
  • use of stimulus payments
  • returning to activities as COVID-19 restrictions ease
  • job status.

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

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
  • everything was an effort
  • so depressed that nothing could cheer them up
  • worthless.

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
  • 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 whether they had discussed their feelings with a doctor or other health professional in the last four weeks.

Current job status

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

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 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 MoE. Totals may vary in some tables as some respondents did not provide an answer to all of the questions.


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 pandemic 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.


The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to the ABS.

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