Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey methodology

This is not the latest release View the latest release
Reference period
May 2021



This publication presents results from the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. This is the tenth monthly survey, conducted throughout Australia between 14 and 23 May 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 May 2021 cycle included 3,371 continuing participants, a response rate of 86% 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 May 2021 survey include:

  • actions taken to manage health and mental health
  • attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines
  • domestic and international travel intentions
  • unpaid work on selected activities
  • household finances (including stress, actions and changes)
  • absences from work
  • 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.


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, 6553.0.

Self-assessed health and mental health

The survey asked Australians aged 18 years and over to assess their health in general, as well as their mental health, on a five-point scale ranging from excellent to poor in December 2020, January 2021 and May 2021.

The December 2020, January 2021 and May 2021 surveys collected information via online forms and telephone interviews.

Self-assessed mental health was also asked in July 2020, via the telephone only. This change in survey methodology means that comparisons of self-assessed mental health across the survey cycles should be treated with caution.

Airline ticket subsidy scheme

The Australian Government introduced a discounted airline ticket subsidy scheme to encourage domestic travel in Australia.

As of 1 April 2020, subsidised flight destinations include:

  • Gold Coast
  • Cairns
  • Whitsundays and Mackay region (Proserpine and Hamilton Island)
  • Sunshine Coast
  • Lasseter and Alice Springs
  • Launceston, Devonport and Burnie
  • Broome
  • Avalon
  • Merimbula
  • Kangaroo Island

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).


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.


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.

Back to top of the page