Long lasting health conditions and illness harmonised principle

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:18 June 2020
Author:Ollie Nixon
Approver:William Perks
Who this is for:Users and producers of statistics
Type:Harmonisation guidance and principles
Contact:

gsshelp@statistics.gov.uk

What is harmonisation?

Harmonisation is the process of making statistics and data more comparable, consistent and coherent. This harmonised principle sets out how to collect and report statistics to ensure comparability across different data collections in the Government Statistical Service (GSS). This produces more useful statistics that give users a greater level of understanding about this topic.

 

What do we mean by long lasting health conditions and illness?

Long lasting health conditions and illness is a topic of interest across government. The 2021 Census in all four countries of the United Kingdom will collect data on this, although the data may not be comparable.

Together with the activity restriction principle, this principle measures disability for the Equality Act 2010.

This principle does not refer to disability. The way individuals view disability varies and the term itself often makes people think about the most severe physical disabilities. Some individuals with impairments may not identify as being disabled.

 

Questions and response options (inputs)

The harmonised question on this topic is designed to collect basic information, for use in the majority of surveys. It is not designed to replace questions used in specialist surveys where more detailed analysis is required.

The question 

Question Response options
Do you have any physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last for 12 months or more?Yes

No

Spontaneous only:

Don’t know

Refusal

 

Using this principle

Guidance for data collection 

This question is to be asked to respondents aged 16 and over.

If respondents are too ill to respond on their own behalf, proxy responses from a family member or friend can be recorded.

For those not able to speak English, a translator should assist with the data collection.

Spontaneous responses can be recorded but should not be presented as options to respondents.

Guidance on the coverage of conditions and illnesses

Interviewers should provide guidance about the coverage of conditions and illnesses if asked for clarification. For example, a respondent may state their mobility is impaired but is unsure whether this classifies as a long lasting condition or illness.

What is and isn’t covered

As a guide, this principle includes physical or mental health conditions:

  • lasting or expected to last for 12 months or more
  • that a person is likely to have for the rest of their life
  • that are likely to need some level of supervision and treatment over a long period of time
  • that are not curable, even if medication or treatment can control symptoms
  • which flare up intermittently, but the exacerbation has a shorter duration than 12 months (e.g. hayfever)
  • which may not be perceived as serious and do not affect day-to-day activities but are nevertheless long lasting
  • which are managed by treatment and lifestyle adjustments and do not affect day-to-day activities, but are nevertheless long lasting

This principle does not capture temporary conditions, however serious they might be.

Equality Act 2010

Disability is one of the nine protected characteristics identified in the 2010 Equality Act for Great Britain.

To determine whether someone is disabled under the 2010 Equality Act this principle must be used with the activity restriction principle.

What this question is designed for

The question is designed to include:

  • sensory deficits
  • non-temporary mobility problems including dyspraxia and cerebral palsy
  • developmental conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which includes Asperger’s syndrome, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • conditions associated with learning impairments such as Down’s syndrome or dyslexia
  • common conditions and illnesses such as: asthma, diabetes, heart and other circulatory conditions, respiratory conditions, digestive conditions, anxiety and depression – if they have lasted or are expected to last 12 months or more
  • seasonal conditions such as hay fever which recur and have lasted or are expected to recur in the future

This question is not designed to measure impact on an individual’s daily activities. The activity restriction principle measures that.

Types of data collection this principle is suitable for

This question measures any self-reported health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last a year or more. It is for use in social surveys.

The principle can be used for:

  • interviewer led questionnaires
  • Computer Assisted Personal interviewing (CAPI)
  • Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI)
  • paper based and online self-completion forms

 

Presenting and reporting the data (outputs)

These tables show the output categories for long lasting physical or mental health conditions or illness. We are not prescribing a code but have given examples.

The coding used should comply with the coding conventions used in the specific survey source.

Suggested variable name: HealIll

ResponseExample code
Has a long lasting health condition or illness1
Does not have a long lasting health condition or illnesses2
Don’t know-8
Refusal-9

Implications for classifications

Definition Example code
EU-SILC: Long standing health problem or illness1
EU-SILC: No long standing illness2
EU-SILC: Not severely hampered in daily activities2
EU-SILC: Not hampered in daily activities to some extent2
Equality Act: Not core currently disabled2

 

Comparability

Outputs that use this principle are comparable with other surveys that also use this principle. However, we would not recommend comparing levels of long lasting health conditions and illness from outputs using this principle with other outputs that use an alternative measure.

Comparability across the censuses

The 2011 Censuses for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all used different questions on long lasting health conditions and illness. None of them produced comparable data on this topic.

The 2021 Census in England and Wales plans to use this principle for long lasting health conditions and illness. However, as this will be different from the questions used in the 2011 Census for England and Wales, the data from these two censuses will not be comparable.

The 2021 Census for Scotland plans to use the same question on long lasting health conditions and illness as the 2011 Census for Scotland. This means the data from these two censuses will be comparable.  However, the data will still not be comparable with data from the 2021 Censuses for England and Wales or Northern Ireland.

Similarly, the 2021 Census for Northern Ireland plans to use the same question on long lasting health conditions and illness as the 2011 Census for Northern Ireland. This means the data from these two censuses will be comparable.  However, the data will still not be comparable with data from the 2021 Censuses for England and Wales or Scotland.

 

Examples of when this principle has been used

Surveys that used this principle

Use in the census

This principle, together with the activity restriction principle, has been chosen for use in the 2021 Census in England and Wales.

Census questions need parliamentary approval. This will be sought during 2020. It is not anticipated that any of the questions on this topic will change.

More information on the comparability of census data on long lasting health conditions and illness is in the comparability section of this page.

 

Development of this principle

A topic group featuring various government departments, academics and external organisations designed the question.

Various proposals underwent cognitive testing. This testing looked at how respondents react to different versions of the question and checked that the questions correctly capture whether a respondent has a disability according to the Equality Act.

Historical questions

Do you have any long standing illness, disability or infirmity? By long standing I mean anything that has troubled you over a period of at least 12 months or that is likely to affect you over a period of at least 12 months

  1. Yes
  2. No

Do you have any health problems or disabilities that you expect will last for more than a year?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Do you have any long standing illness, disability or infirmity by long standing I mean anything that has troubled you over a period of time or is likely to affect you over a period of time?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Do you have any long standing physical or mental impairment, illness or disability? By long standing I mean anything that has affected you over a period of at least 12 months or that is likely to affect you over a period of at least 12 months?

  1. Yes
  2. No

 

Further information

Social model of disability 

This principle uses the social model of disability. This model focuses on reducing barriers for disabled individuals whereas the medical model focuses on the specific symptoms, conditions or illnesses that impair them.

An individual with an impairment who lives and works in a suitably adjusted environment may not be considered as disabled under this model.

 

Contact us

We are always interested in hearing from users so we can develop our work. If you use or produce statistics based on this topic, get in touch: gsshelp@statistics.gov.uk.

 

Review frequency:

This page will be reviewed annually.

Updates

Date Changes
17 April 2019

This page was published.

18 June 2020

This page was reviewed and updated.

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