Young Adult

The health questions in the Young Adult cover many topics, including the following:

In some areas, questions closely parallel the health history that has been obtained for all children of NLSY79 mothers. It is therefore easy to link these Young Adult health variables with the health care information collected during the respondent's childhood years.

General health (Height/weight, limitations, accidents/injuries, illnesses, medical care, insurance coverage)

The Young Adult health section gathers information on height and body weight, types of limitations, number of accidents and injuries in the last 12 months, hospitalizations resulting from these accidents/injuries, and insurance coverage. From 1994 through 1998, detailed questions were asked about accidents and injuries in the last 12 months requiring medical attention, whether or not they resulted in hospitalization. From 2000-2016, Young Adults were asked detailed questions only about accidents and injuries resulting in hospitalization in the past 12 months.

Young Adult respondents who do not live with their mother are asked additional questions about illnesses and routine medical care. For younger Young Adults who do live with their mother, comparable questions are asked of the mother in the fertility section of the main Youth CAPI questionnaire. 

Questions to assess the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic were added to the health section of the YA2020 questionnaire. These questions asked about the respondent’s experiences, as well as whether family members, relatives, and friends had contracted Covid-19 and whether anyone close to the R had died of Covid-19.


Young Adults have answered the CES-D depression scale in multiple survey rounds. A 7-item version of this scale was used in 1994-2008; an 11-item version was introduced in 2010. In most rounds all Young Adults answered the CES-D questions, but the 2000 and 2002 administrations were limited to those not interviewed in the previous survey round. In 2012, respondents between the ages of 25 and 29 were not asked the CES-D questions. In 2014, respondents between the ages of 14 and 24, along with those in the extended health module, were asked the CES-D. In the CES-D, respondents are asked to indicate how often in the past week they felt particular ways. The initial seven items included in the Young Adult are:

  • I did not feel like eating; my appetite was poor.
  • I had trouble keeping my mind on what I was doing.
  • I felt depressed.
  • I felt that everything I did was an effort.
  • My sleep was restless.
  • I felt sad.
  • I could not get "going."

The items added in 2010 are:

  • I felt I could not shake off the blues, even with help from my family or friends.
  • I was happy.
  • I felt lonely.
  • I felt life was not worth living.

Further discussion of the 7-item CES-D scale can be found in the Attitudes section.

Nutrition & exercise

Two new series were added to the health section in 2004. One series asks questions about health-related behaviors such as fruit and vegetable consumption, hours of sleep per night, and level of exercise. In 2008, the two questions related to exercise and time spent using computers from the health section were replaced with a more detailed sequence of three exercise questions and two questions about time spent using computers. In 2010, several additional questions about healthy behaviors and routine check-ups were added. The two questions concerning time spent on computers for work and for leisure were dropped after the 2016 survey.


The other series added in 2004 was a set of detailed questions designed to track the onset of asthma and the persistence and severity of related symptoms. From 2006, asthma questions refer to updates since the date of last interview once a respondent has answered the initial series of questions. This series includes two questions about whether anyone has smoked cigarettes in the respondent's home in the last two weeks and whether the respondent has routinely spent time somewhere in the last two weeks where they can smell cigarette smoke. As part of the 2018 design process, many of the detailed questions about asthma symptoms and medications were dropped. Young Adults are asked about their own cigarette smoking in the Self-Report section, discussed in the Cigarette & Drug Use section.

Trauma/Catastrophic events

In 2006, a series of questions concerning catastrophic events that might adversely affect the health and wellbeing of respondents, such as death or imprisonment of a close relative, was added to the Health section. These questions are a modified version of the catastrophic events series used in the NLSY97 questionnaire. Initially all respondents were asked about such events since they were 10 years old. Beginning in 2008, respondents who have previously answered this series are asked only about events since the date of last interview.


Female Young Adult respondents who have not yet reported menarche (the onset of menses) are asked whether menses has started and, if so, when.


The YA 2020 health section included a series of questions for female Young Adult respondents about their menstrual cycles, including any changes they have experienced and about symptoms of either perimenopause or menopause.

Cognition, aging, and head injury

Beginning in 2010, a health and cognition module for respondents aged 29 and older was added. This module was modeled after the age 29 module from the NLSY97 with some adjustments and additions to also maintain comparability to the health modules in the NLSY79. For 2010 and 2012, this module was asked of all respondents aged 29 and older in order to get baseline information for all Young Adults. Thereafter, it has been asked of respondents who are 29/30, or who are over that age but have not yet completed the module. In 2012, a series of questions about head injuries was added to the health module. Beginning in 2014, this expanded module has also been asked of respondents aged 41/42 with additional questions added for this age group.

Comparison to Other NLS Cohorts: The NLSY79 survey collects health information on the respondents, including expanded health modules as they age. Maternal prenatal care information and health-related characteristics collected from the NLSY79 mothers about each of their children are provided on the NLSY79 Child and Young Adult data set. As part of the child data collection, the Mother Supplement (MS) survey instrument includes a selection of scales measuring the child's temperament, motor and social development, and behavior problems. Information on the child's health is also collected from the mother in the Child Supplement (CS) survey instrument. 

Respondents in the other cohorts have answered questions about their health; however, the specific questions have varied widely as the health sections were modified to reflect the respondents' varying life cycle stages. Health insurance information has been collected from respondents in these cohorts except the Young Men. The round 1 NLSY97 interview included a series of questions, addressed to youths born in 1983, on respondents' health practices and knowledge. For more precise details about the content of each survey, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide using the tabs above for more information.

Survey Instruments Health-related questions are found in the Young Adult Instrument, Section 14, Young Adult Health.
Area of Interest YA Health