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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey methodology

Reference period
June 2021

Methodology

Introduction

This publication presents results from the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. This is the eleventh and final monthly survey, conducted throughout Australia between 11 and 20 June 2021.

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.

The results for all past publications can be accessed by selecting ‘View all releases’ in the header of this publication.

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 scope of the survey was people aged 18 years and over in private dwellings across Australia.

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 person who completed household details became the person selected for the panel. Their participation in the survey is voluntary and respondents can opt out at any point.

For the first monthly survey in August 2020, a sample of over 4,900 private dwellings was selected to obtain responses from 1,561 fully responding dwellings. This defined the longitudinal panel for the subsequent surveys up until the October 2020 cycle.

In the November 2020 cycle, the sample was increased, with over 8,400 private dwellings selected to obtain responses from 3,400 fully responding dwellings. The fully responding count consists of 1,369 dwellings continuing from the first cycle in August 2020, and 2,031 dwellings from the increased November 2020 sample. The increased sample of 3,400 defined the longitudinal panel for the subsequent surveys up until the February 2021 cycle.

The panel from August 2020 completed their last cycle in February 2021. In March 2021 a sample of around 9,500 private dwellings was selected to target a total sample of 4,146 fully responding dwellings. The fully responding count consisted of 1,676 dwellings continuing from the November 2020 cycle, and 2,246 new participants, bringing the total panel to 3,922 people.

The June 2021 cycle included 3,414 continuing participants, a response rate of 87% of the total panel.

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 is re-weighted to maintain consistent full population estimates across the surveys.

Data collection

The topics in the June 2021 survey include:

  • emotional and mental wellbeing
  • COVID-19 vaccine attitudes and experiences
  • symptom testing behaviours
  • health precautions
  • expectations for household income, saving and spending
  • training and development of skills
  • participation in selected activities
  • perceptions of the future after the COVID-19 pandemic
  • job status.

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.

Some topics have been repeated in both the fortnightly and monthly surveys. The monthly iterations of the survey gathered information via online forms and telephone interviews. Previous fortnightly iterations of the survey were collected via the telephone only. Where relevant, comparisons are made based on the weighted representative data for both surveys. The change in survey methodology means that comparison of results for the topics repeated across the survey iterations should be treated with caution.

Household living arrangements

The survey collected information from respondents about the household living arrangements of all people within the household. The categories are not comparable to those found in classifications related to Family or Household composition.

For this survey, people who live in the household full-time or part-time, whether they are related or not, are included. Dependants who are 18 years or older are regarded as adults, and visitors to the household are excluded.

Each category refers to private dwellings containing:

  • Lone person - a person 18 years or older who lives in the household on their own.
  • Family with children - a household with one or more children (under the age of 18 years) usually resident in the same household. The family may include any number of other related or unrelated individuals usually resident in the household.
  • Family without children – a family based on two persons who are spouses or partners, who are usually resident in the same household and have no children under 18 years usually resident in the same household. The family may include any number of other related or unrelated individuals usually resident in the household.

There were households consisting of two or more unrelated people where all persons are aged 18 years or over, however the numbers were too small to publish.

Country of birth and Year of arrival

The survey collected information from respondents about their Country of birth and Year of arrival.

Country of birth identifies the country in which a person was born. It can be used to indicate whether a person is an immigrant and the country group to which they belong. It may be used with a range of other variables to measure the cultural and ethnic composition of the Australian population.

Year of Arrival in Australia collects the year in which a person, born in another country, first arrived in Australia with the intention of living here for one year or more. Data related to Year of Arrival in Australia can be used in conjunction with variables such as Country of Birth to analyse settlement patterns for various migrant groups.

For this survey, Country of birth and Year of arrival information have been used in conjunction to create the following categories:

  • Born in Australia
  • Born overseas
    • Born overseas (arrived within last ten years)
    • Born overseas (arrived more than ten years ago)

For more information see the Country of Birth Standard, 2016 and the Year of Arrival Standard, 2014, Version 1.5.

Disability

Whether a person has a disability has been derived from a subset of questions from the ABS’s Short Disability Module. People were asked about several impairments and whether these had an impact on their ability to do everyday activities. These questions are not designed to estimate prevalence but rather allow for the broad comparison of the social, health and economic characteristics of people with and without disability.

Care should be taken when interpreting data relating to disability in this survey as results showed that those people who were interviewed by telephone were more likely to have a disability than those who completed the survey online. This may be due to a mode effect.

Long-term health conditions

The survey asked if respondents had been told by a doctor or nurse if they had one or more of a selected list of long-term health conditions. Conditions included:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer (including remission)
  • Dementia (including Alzheimer’s)
  • Diabetes (excluding gestational diabetes)
  • Heart disease (including heart attack or angina)
  • Kidney disease
  • Lung condition (including COPD or emphysema)
  • Mental health condition (including depression or anxiety)
  • Stroke
  • Any other long-term health condition(s).

Health conditions were those that had lasted, or were expected to last, six months or more. Respondents were asked to include conditions that may recur from time to time, are controlled by medication, or are in remission.

Tenure type

The survey collected information from respondents about tenure type of the household.

Tenure type is defined as the nature of a household's legal right to occupy the dwelling in which the household members reside. Households are classified to one of the following categories:

  • Owner without a mortgage – includes households who own the property in which they usually reside and have no outstanding mortgages or loans secured against the dwelling.
  • Owner with a mortgage - includes households who own the property in which they usually reside and have any outstanding mortgages or loans secured against the dwelling.
  • Renter – includes households who pay rent to reside in the dwelling, even if this rent is subsidised or partly refunded.

For more information see the Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, cat.no. 6553.0.

Emotional and mental wellbeing and psychological distress

The survey collected information on psychological distress of persons aged 18 years and over using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). 

The K10 questionnaire administered to respondents asked 10 questions about people’s level of nervousness, agitation, fatigue and depression. Respondents were asked how often in the last four weeks they had felt: 

  • tired out for no good reason
  • nervous
  • so nervous that nothing could calm you down
  • hopeless
  • restless or fidgety
  • so restless you could not sit still
  • depressed
  • everything was an effort
  • so sad that nothing could cheer you up
  • worthless.

Using the K10 questionnaire, a five-level response scale that corresponded to scores from 1 for ‘none of the time’ to 5 for ‘all the time’ were summed, with low scores indicating low levels of psychological distress and high scores indicating high levels of psychological distress.  

Results are presented by the categories ‘low or moderate’ psychological distress, or ‘high or very high’ psychological distress, using the cut-point scores below: 

  • Low (scores of 10-15, indicating little or no psychological distress)
  • Moderate (scores of 16-21)
  • High (scores of 22-29)
  • Very high (scores of 30-50).

A very high level of psychological distress shown by the K10 may indicate a need for professional help. For more information see the National Health Survey: Users’ Guide, 2017-18 (cat. no 4363.0)

The full set of K10 questions was asked in November 2020, March 2021 and June 2021. A subset of six of the K10 questions was asked in August 2020, using questions from the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale - 6 (K6). While the K6 questions can be used for comparison, they do not allow for reporting of levels of psychological distress.

Sources of income

The survey asked respondents about their main source of household income. Response options included:

  • wages and salaries (including from own incorporated business)
  • any government pension, benefit or allowance
  • superannuation, an annuity or private pension
  • profit or loss from own unincorporated business or share in a partnership
  • profit or loss from a rental investment property
  • any other regular source (such as interest, dividends, scholarships, silent partnerships, child support, workers compensation)
  • nil or negative income.

The following guidance was available for the respondent and interviewer where needed:

Wages and salaries (including from own incorporated business):

  • including:
    • wages and salaries, bonuses, overtime, amounts salary sacrificed, non-cash benefits such as the use of motor vehicles and subsidised housing, and termination payments
    • wages and salaries received from the JobKeeper Payment
  • excluding:
    • workers compensation.

Government pension, benefit or allowance:

  • including:
    • pensions and allowances received by aged, disabled, unemployed and sick persons, families and children, veterans or their survivors, study allowances for students, all overseas pensions and benefits
  • excluding:
    • wages and salaries received from the JobKeeper Payment. Please include this under ‘Wages and salaries’
    • amounts received from the JobKeeper Payment relating to own unincorporated businesses or partnerships should be included in ‘Profit or loss from own unincorporated business or share in a partnership’.

Superannuation, annuities or private pensions:

  • note:
    • this question collects information on income from superannuation and not contributions to a fund
  • including:
    • income from superannuation schemes, including DIY super schemes, self-managed super funds, retirement schemes, provident funds and pension schemes
  • excluding:
    • lump sum irregular payments from superannuation; Centrelink and DVA social security payments.

Own unincorporated business income:

  • including:
    • the profit/loss that accrues to persons as owners of, or partners in, unincorporated businesses. Profit/loss consists of the value of gross output of the business after the deduction of operating expenses (including depreciation). Losses occur when operating expenses are greater than gross receipts and are treated as negative income
    • overall profit/loss is to be reported taking all income into account, including any amounts received from the JobKeeper Payment
  • excluding:
    • silent partnerships.

Rental investments:

  • including:
    • residential property rent; Non-residential (e.g. commercial) property rent; Income from property in Australia and overseas (provided in Australian dollars); Rent from another household living in the same dwelling; properties which are negatively geared
  • excluding:
    • income from rent that was reported as part of business income; Board (or ‘rent’) from another member of the same household; Income from properties which have recently changed status, ie. are no longer owned (only include current income).

Other regular sources of income: Interest and Dividends:

  • including:
    • income received from investments or other income producing assets (e.g. interest, dividends, shares, debentures, bonds, securities, copyright, royalties, cash management trusts, money market trusts, property trusts and unit trusts, interest earned on loans to persons not in this household)
  • excluding:
    • amounts received from the sale of assets (e.g. bonds, shares, other securities); Income from rental properties; Income from superannuation funds already reported.

Other regular sources of income: Child Support/maintenance:

  • including:
    • the set amount of the formal Child Support agreement, whether collected via the Child Support Agency (CSA) or through private arrangements made by the parents
  • excluding:
    • the value of property and other investments which may be divided on settlement; Non-cash amounts; Payments made to third parties (e.g. payments of mortgage, rent and school fees).

Other regular sources of income: Workers’ compensation:

  • including:
    • workers’ compensation payments being received by the remaining dependants of a person who is deceased; Workers compensation payments received as a lump sum of pension payment
  • excluding:
    • compensation which is merely a reimbursement of medical or hospital bills; Money expected but not yet received.

Other regular sources of income:

  • including:
    • Army Reserve pay; Scholarships; Student allowance received regularly from family overseas; income from family members or persons not living in the same household
  • excluding:
    • lottery or gambling wins, inheritance, sale of assets and other windfall gains; Lump sum retirement benefits; Income received from other household members; Income reported elsewhere; Non-life insurance claims; Withdrawals from savings and loans obtained; Repayment of loans made to persons not in the household (the interest component should be reported); Holding gains or losses resulting from changes in the value of financial and non-financial assets and liabilities.

Current job status

The survey collected information about the current job status of all respondents, and changes to their job situation since the last 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 the Labour Force Survey questionnaire, available from the Collection method chapter in the Labour force, Australia methodology publication). 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. MoE's 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).

Products

The Data Cubes, containing all tables for this publication in Excel spreadsheet format, are available with the Downloads. 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.

Confidentiality

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.

Acknowledgments

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.

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