Health: Conditions & Practices


Created Variables

CV_CESD_SCORE_XX. Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CESD) Scale scoring for rounds 19 and 20. The seven-item CES-D is a self-report scale that measures the current prevalence of depression symptoms. Respondents rate a series of statements regarding how they felt during the week prior to the interview. 

CVC_GAD7_SCORE_3839. Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale scoring for round in which respondents have turned 38 or 39.  The GAD-7 is a seven-item self-report scale of generalized anxiety developed by Spitzer, Kroenke, Williams and Lowe (2006). Respondents rate how often they were bothered by a series of anxiety problems over the past two weeks.

CVC_GRIT_SCORE. The 8-item Grit Scale scoring, measuring the respondent's self-perceived level of 'grittiness.' Developed by Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, and Kelly (2007), the Grit Scale was given to respondents in round 16 (round 17 or 18 if not interviewed in round 16).

 NDI_DECEASED_FLAG. Identifies whether deceased respondents have information available from a National Death Index (NDI) search. 

The NLSY97 collects information on the general health status of respondents in all rounds. Select rounds also provided data on respondents' health practices and knowledge. In rounds 6 and 11-15, a more extensive set of questions, including chronic health conditions, was included. Starting in round 13, respondents who were 29 years of age answered a special series of health questions. Starting in round 19, respondents who had turned 38-39 years of age answered an additional set of health questions.

In 2021, questions were introduced that asked about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on respondents’ lives -- in two different surveys. In spring 2021, a brief standalone COVID-19 supplement was fielded, followed by round 20 of the traditional longitudinal survey that fall. The supplement and round 20 included a variety of COVID-19-related questions, ranging from impacts on respondents’ jobs to finances to health. (For more information about the spring 2021 supplement, see Appendix 14: NLSY97 COVID-19 Supplement.) Health questions in the spring supplement included self-reported general health status, the CES-D depression scale, and whether the respondent had been diagnosed with COVID-19 by a health care professional. Health questions added in round 20 included whether the respondent had received a vaccine and whether the respondent had been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspected that they had been infected, even if they didn’t receive confirmation.

Health Status and Conditions

Youth Questionnaire

General Health: All survey rounds include the question: "In general, how is your health?" with respondents choosing their answers from the categories "excellent," "very good," "good," "fair," or "poor."

Height and Weight. In each round, respondents are asked to report their weight. In the self-administered section, youths further describe their weight (very underweight, slightly underweight, about the right weight, slightly overweight, very overweight) and their current weight strategy (lose weight, gain weight, stay the same weight, do nothing related to weight). The respondents gave their height in rounds 1-15.

Handedness. In round 5, youths reported whether they were left-handed, right-handed, or used both hands equally well. Round 15 asked a series of questions determining the degree to which respondents were left-handed or right-handed, with respondents indicating which hand they used for various activities.

Puberty. Youths state whether they have entered puberty and their age at the time of onset.

Health Insurance Coverage. In round 1, if the respondent did not live with a parent/guardian at the time of the survey, he or she was questioned on the source of any health insurance coverage that included physician or hospital care. For respondents living with a parent or guardian in round 1, information about health insurance was collected in the Parent Questionnaire. Respondents were asked more details about health insurance coverage beginning in round 6. Respondents were asked in rounds 6 and up if they currently had health care coverage and if there was any time in the past year during which they did not have health care coverage.

Mental Health Measures. Rounds 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 17-18 included a series of questions concerning how often the respondent felt certain ways during the previous month. These questions are a five-item short version of the Mental Health Inventory (MHI-5), developed by Veit and Ware in the late 1970s. Respondents reported the frequency of being nervous, feeling calm and peaceful, feeling downhearted and blue, being happy, and feeling so down in the dumps that nothing could cheer them up. Respondents used a four-point scale to rate the frequency of their feelings. This series is located in the self-administered section of the questionnaire in questions YSAQ-282B through YSAQ-282G. In rounds 13 and 14, respondents answered questions about the number of times they had been treated by a mental health professional and the number of times they had missed activities (such as work or school) because of an emotional, mental or psychiatric problem. In rounds 19 and 20, respondents answered a shortened version of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). This CES-D was also given in the COVID-19 Supplement. 

Health Conditions. Rounds 6, 11, 12, and 13 included an extensive series of questions about physical, genetic, mental, and emotional conditions the respondents may have had. Respondents were asked to report any such condition (blindness, hearing loss, diabetes, heart condition, asthma, epilepsy, cancer, eating disorder, etc.), in addition to the age at which it was first noticed and the extent to which the condition limited activities. 

Medical Treatment/Visits. Questions in rounds 6-18 asked about the number of times the youth was treated for injury or illness in the past year, the number of times the youth missed at least a day of usual activities due to injury or illness but was not treated, and how long it had been since the youth visited a doctor for a routine checkup. (The latter question changed in round 8 from how long since the respondent had seen a doctor to whether or not the respondent had seen a seen a physician in the past year.) In rounds 11-13, respondents were asked about any overnight hospitalizations.

Out-of-the-ordinary Stressors. In rounds 6, 11, 12, 13, and 16, respondents were asked about being a victim of a violent crime or being homeless. They also answered a series of questions about whether any household members had experienced hospitalizations, incarcerations, or long-term unemployment, whether the respondent's parents had recently divorced, or if any close relatives had died.

Health-At-Age-29 Questions. Starting in round 13, those respondents who had turned 29 since the previous interview were asked a new series of questions to establish a baseline of health. These included questions about a family history of diseases (including detailed questions about diabetes), parents' mortality, respondents' health limitations (including limitations on moderate activities, climbing stairs, social activities, and productivity), energy level and mood. Other questions were asked about whether the respondent had received a flu shot, a cholesterol test, diabetes test, pap smear, and blood pressure check in the past two years.

Health-At-Age-38/39 Questions. Beginning in round 19, respondents who had turned 38/39 since the previous interview were asked another new series of questions, including questions about health expectations over the next 10 years, sleep habits/quality, and the General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) scale.

Chronic Pain Questions. In round 19, respondents answered a new short series of questions about chronic pain. These questions asked 1) if they had suffered in the past 30 days from chronic pain due to illness or medical condition; 2) how often they suffered from it; 3) if they took prescribed or over-the-counter pain medication; and 4) if they had ever used prescribed medication in any way that was not directed.

Workplace-Related Injuries and Illnesses. Rounds 13 (and rounds 14 or 15 for those who were not interviewed in round 13) included questions about work-related injuries and illnesses the respondent may have experienced since the date of the last interview. Respondents reported which employer they were working for at the time, the year and month the injury took place or illness began, what activity they were engaged in (normal work activity, employer-directed travel or training, meal break, rest break, personal business or other), when it occurred, and the resultant number of days absent from work, if any. They were also asked if the incident caused a temporary job reassignment, a decrease in hours, loss of wages, job limitations, the number of days it took to resume regular duties after the incident, and details about worker's compensation related to the incident.

National Death Index Variables. The round 20 (2021) data release contains information regarding cause, dates and location of death for deceased respondents for whom a matching death certificate was returned from an NDI search. Variables depicting the cause, year and region of death are restricted to the Geocode data release. Variables containing the month and state, territory or country of death are further restricted to the Zipcode data release. The only public variable is NDI_DECEASED_FLAG, which identifies whether deceased respondents have information available from the NDI search. Users can visit the BLS geocode application page for more information about applying for restricted access data.

In this special effort, data for a subset of NLSY97 respondents were submitted for the NDI search. The subset included respondents identified as deceased during survey field periods and respondents who have proven difficult to locate or have not been interviewed for a period of time with no confirmation of their status. In order to maximize the possibility of an NDI death certificate match, multiple submissions were made for individual respondents whenever possible. These multiple submissions could include elements such as maiden names, different married names, nicknames and various multiple ethnicities reported by the respondent, any of which might appear in various combinations on a death certificate. Individual respondent records, interviewer notes and administrative data were examined in conjunction with NDI search results to determine those for which valid matches could be established. 

Parent Questionnaire (round 1). 

The round 1 parent interview provided additional information about the youth's general health. The responding parent reported any past or present medical condition(s) that limited the youth's ability to attend school regularly, do regular school work, or work at a job for pay. The survey specifically asked whether the youth suffered from any of the following conditions:

  • Chronic health condition or life-threatening disease
  • Learning disability
  • Part of body missing or deformed
  • Physical, emotional, or mental condition
  • Trouble seeing, hearing, or speaking

For each health condition, the responding parent was asked how old the youth was when the condition was first noticed and whether the youth was currently limited by the condition. Data on the youth's health insurance coverage were also collected from the responding parent.

Additional information about the general health of the parent, his or her partner or spouse, and, in some cases, the youth's absent biological parents is described in Parent Characteristics.

Health Practices and Knowledge

The round 1 NLSY97 interview included a series of questions on respondents' health practices and knowledge. The health practices questions asked about the percent of time the youth wore a seatbelt and the number of days in a typical school week the youth ate breakfast, ate green vegetables or fruits, and engaged in exercise lasting 30 minutes or more. These round 1 health practices questions were asked only of respondents born in 1983.

Rounds 6, 10-15, and 17 also asked NLSY97 respondents (all birth years) about health practices. These included similar questions to round 1 -- the number of days in a typical week the youth ate fruits/vegetables and engaged in exercise lasting 30 minutes or more. Rounds 13-15 and 17 included more specific questions about types of exercise. Respondents were also asked to rate their general health and report the amount of sleep they got on a typical weeknight. Other questions asked about the amount of time in a typical week the youth spent using a computer and watching television. In addition, respondents were asked to report how many times during the last 30 days they drove a car/vehicle after they had been drinking alcohol. Also in the same 30-day period, they were asked how many times they rode in a car/vehicle after the driver had been drinking alcohol. Rounds 13-15 and 17 included additional questions about food consumption and awareness of nutrients in consumed food. Respondents were also asked about frequencies of eating fast food, snacking between meals, skipping meals, consuming a drink that contained sugar, and limiting calorie intake. Respondents in rounds 13-15 and 17 also were asked how often they brushed and flossed their teeth.

Further questions in rounds 1 and 6 assessed respondents' knowledge of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In both rounds, these questions were asked only of respondents born in 1983. Two questions asked the respondents to choose the most effective method of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases--withdrawal, condom, or birth control pill. The respondent also was asked at which point in the female menstrual cycle he or she believed pregnancy was most likely to occur. 

In addition, in rounds 1 and 6, these respondents were asked to state their opinions on whether smoking cigarettes contributed to getting heart disease or getting AIDS. They were also surveyed on whether having five or more drinks of alcohol once or twice per week increased risks such as liver damage, heart disease, arthritis, alcohol addiction, or harm to an unborn child.

Parent Questionnaire (round 1). If a youth was born in 1983, the responding parent was questioned on his or her perception of the effects of drinking alcohol in relation to the same health conditions detailed in the youth portion of the survey. (See above.) 

Comparison to Other NLS Surveys: Respondents in each cohort 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 all cohorts except the Young Men. In 1984, NLSY79 respondents answered health knowledge questions about when pregnancy occurs; the NLSY79 children ages 10 and over (10-14 in 1994 and 1996) have responded to this question each year since 1988. Users should refer to the appropriate cohort's User's Guide for more precise information.

Survey Instruments: Most health questions in the Youth Questionnaire are found in the health and self-administered sections (question names begin with YHEA, YHEA29, YHEA3839 and YSAQ), with the exception of work injury questions, which are found in the employment section. (See questions that begin with YEMP-INJ.) In the round 1 Parent Questionnaire, these questions are found in sections P6 and PC9.

Related User's Guide Sections Alcohol Use
Cigarette Use
Sexual Activity & Dating
Parent Characteristics
Main Area of Interest Health
Supplemental Areas of Interest Fertility and Pregnancy
Sexual Activity
Substance Use