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Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey methodology

Reference period
March 2022
Released
12/04/2022

Introduction

This publication presents results from the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, which was conducted throughout Australia between 11 and 20 March 2022.

This is the second cycle of the monthly survey which was previously conducted from April 2020 to June 2021. The survey will run from February to April 2022.

In 2022, the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey is designed to provide further insight into how employment, health, education, and wellbeing of Australian households are being impacted by the continued COVID-19 outbreaks and restrictions.

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.

Data collection

Sample/Panel design and estimation

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

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 survey in March 2022, 2,484 participants were approached to obtain 2,162 fully responding participants, a response rate of 87% of the total panel.

While households were initially selected, we are now following the individual respondents, as people may move households over time. 

107 people who responded in February were not approached in March 2022 as they resided in areas impacted by floods in Queensland and New South Wales.

The people who responded, and those who were not available for the survey in March but indicated they would be available, will define the longitudinal panel for subsequent surveys.  

The panel data was weight adjusted using the ABS Estimated Residential Population (ERP) projections as at August 2021. Benchmarks comprised of age, sex, and geographic variables. In addition, adjustments were made based on the number of persons living in the household.

Due to the anticipated changes in non-responding persons 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 March 2022 survey include:

  • symptoms of COVID-19 and testing
  • emotional or mental wellbeing 
  • hours on unpaid activities
  • impact of COVID-19 on school or childcare attendance
  • job status changes and impact of COVID-19 on work arrangements.

Information was gathered via a 5–10 minute telephone interview.

While some topics are the same as in previous surveys, relying exclusively on telephone interviews differs from the past monthly iterations of the 2021 survey, which gathered information via both telephone interviews and online forms. Where results are compared over time, comparisons are made based on the weighted representative data for each survey.

Processing the data

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. 

Current job status

The survey collected information about the current job status of all respondents, and whether the employment situation of anyone in the household changed in the last four weeks due to COVID-19.

Respondents were asked simple questions about 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.

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).

Variations of the K10 and K6 questions (a reduced set) have been asked in past cycles of the Household Impacts of COVID-19 survey. The mode of collection has changed between telephone interview only and/or self-administered online forms combined with telephone interviews. The mode used has been shown to impact the responses for these questions and comparisons between cycles that use different collection methods are not recommended.

Because the sample did not include people who experienced severe flooding at the time of the survey, estimates produced may underestimate the emotional and mental wellbeing, and psychological distress levels of Australians in March 2022.

Data release

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 within the Downloads section of the publication. 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 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.

Privacy

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