Measuring disability with European Union (EU) data harmonisation guidance

This harmonised standard is under development.

Following the Inclusive Data Taskforce recommendations, we plan to review and update the current harmonised standard. This is in line with the GSS Harmonisation Workplan.

You can find more information about this in the ‘Further information’ section of this page. If you would like to be involved with this work, please contact us at harmonisation@statistics.gov.uk.

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:25 June 2019
Author:Caroline Smith
Approver:William Perks
Who this is for:Users and producers of statistics
Type:Harmonisation standards and guidance
Contact:

GSSHelp@statistics.gov.uk

Introduction

Harmonisation is the process of making statistics and data more comparable, consistent and coherent. Harmonised standards set out how to collect and report statistics to ensure comparability across different data collections. This produces more useful statistics and give users a greater level of understanding about this topic.

This standard combines the long-lasting health conditions and illness and activity restriction standards to measure disability for the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC).

This guidance shows the classifications designed for EU-SILC (EU Survey of Income and Living Conditions). It classifies long-lasting health conditions or illnesses and disability measurement by extent of activity restriction. These measures are for cross-country comparisons. Estimates are designed to benchmark with a European average.

This method defines disability for EU-SILC based on the UK harmonised disability questions. It produces similar results to the Eurostat global activity limitation (GALI) question. The European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) and member states who do not have equivalent questions use this GALI question.

The two classifications are:

  • if a person has a long-standing illness or health problem
  • if a person is hampered in their daily activities

One important difference from the Equality Act measure is that for EU data collection a person needs to have had a health problem for at least 6 months, rather than at least 12 months.

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

Questions

How a respondent answers three questions will classify them as either:

  • having a long-standing illness or health problem
  • being severely hampered in daily activities
  • being hampered in daily activities to some extent

Question 1: Do you have any physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last for 12 months or more?
Question 2: Does your condition or illness/do any of your conditions or illnesses reduce your ability to carry out day-to-day activities?
Question 3: For how long has your ability to carry out day-to-day activities been reduced?

Classification

This section shows what responses are required for each classification.

EU-SILC classification: long-standing illness or health problem

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

 

EU-SILC classification: severely hampered in daily activities

QuestionResponse options
Do you have any physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last 12 months or more?Yes
Does your condition or illness\do any of your conditions or illnesses reduce your ability to carry-out day-to-day activities?Yes, a lot
For how long has your ability to carry-out day-to-day activities been reduced?Between 6 months and 12 months

12 months or more

 

EU-SILC classification: hampered in daily activities to some extent

QuestionResponse options
Do you have any physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last 12 months or more?Yes
Does your condition or illness\do any of your conditions or illnesses reduce your ability to carry-out day-to-day activities?Yes, a little
For how long has your ability to carry-out day-to-day activities been reduced?Between 6 months and 12 months

12 months or more

Outputs

This table shows output categories for EU-SILC data. The coding used for these categories should comply with the coding conventions applied in the specific survey source. An example is given in the table.

Output categoryNominal scale
Severely hampered in daily activities Numeric 1
Hampered in daily activities to some extentNumeric 2
Not hampered in daily activitiesNumeric 3
Refusal-9

The questions used to output disability for EU-SILC come from the GSS harmonised standard for EU-SILC data. This means the outputs are comparable with other surveys that use this standard. However, we would not recommend comparing estimates from this output to those found in publications that do not use the harmonised measure.

How should this standard be used?

What types of data collection can this standard be used for?

These questions measure the extent and duration of restrictions carrying out day-to-day activities if a person has any long-lasting health conditions or illness. They are for use in social surveys.

The standard can be used for:

  • interviewer-led questionnaires
  • computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI)
  • computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI)
  • paper-based and online self-completion forms

Both questions can be asked by proxy if the respondent is aged under 16 or they are unable to respond in person.

What surveys used this standard?

This harmonised standard has been adopted by:

Further information

For more information about the two classification questions, see:

Inclusive Data Taskforce and GSS Harmonisation Workplan

In October 2020, the National Statistician established the Inclusive Data Taskforce. It was designed to improve the UK’s inclusive data holdings in a broad range of areas. This includes the nine protected characteristics of the Equality Act.

In September 2021 the Taskforce recommendations were published. Some of these recommendations specifically refer to harmonisation.

In response to the recommendations, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) oversaw the publication of an Implementation Plan in January 2022. This gives information about the current and planned initiatives across the UK statistical system. It refers to a GSS Harmonisation workplan, which was published in February 2022. This workplan includes reviewing, refining, and updating harmonised standards.

The workplan sets out activities for this standard in relation to disability. This includes:

  • reviewing the topic area
  • working with stakeholders and user groups to make sure disability standards meet user needs
  • testing possible improvements and changes to the question design for the disability standards

Timescales for this work will be guided by the feedback the team gets throughout the project. We are now working to:

  • run research and engagement activities throughout 2022
  • publish the first findings from our research and engagement work in autumn 2022
  • design draft questions for updating the disability standards by winter 2022 – this will depend on our research and engagement findings
  • publish updated online self-completion questions by summer 2023, followed by telephone mode and face-to-face mode questions – this will depend on our research and engagement findings

If you would like to be involved with this work, please contact us at harmonisation@statistics.gov.uk.

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
8 January 2021

Adding a list of surveys than include this measure.

  • If you would like us to get in touch with you then please leave your contact details or email gsshelp@statistics.gov.uk directly.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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