Long-term health problem or disability

Mnemonic (reference code): DISABILITY

Type: Primary variable

Definition: A long-term health problem or disability that limits a person’s day-to-day activity, and has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months. This includes problems that are related to old age. People were asked to assess whether their daily activities were limited a lot or a little by such a health problem, or whether their daily activities were not limited at all.

Applicability: Person





Yes, limited a lot


Yes, limited a little




No code required

Total number of categories: 4

Not applicable category (X) comprises: Schoolchildren and full-time students living away from home during term time.

Source question:

Image of Scottish question 21 from 2011

Scotland 2011

Why the question was asked: Long-term illness is a strong predictor for higher use of health service resources. This information is used by central government for resource allocation and by local government for service provision. It enables public bodies to meet statutory requirements and to develop and monitor policies to allocate health funding and services at a national and local level.

The statistics generated help to monitor and develop equality policy. These policies relate especially to the delivery of health care, assessment of progress towards better population health and the reduction of health inequalities.

Statistics on disability are also useful for devising policies to improve access to services, such as adult education and leisure facilities.

In cognitive question testing done by Ipsos MORI Scotland, respondents indicated that they found this question straightforward to answer and there did not appear to be any issues surrounding the understanding or interpretation of the question. Furthermore, the additional information regarding the inclusion of problems related to old age was seen to be clear.

Overall, respondents were able to answer the question with little deliberation and those who did feel that they were limited did not seem to have a problem distinguishing whether their condition(s) limits them ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’.

England & Wales (2011) and Scotland (2001) comparisons:

Image of E & W question 23 from 2011

England & Wales 2011

In 2001 there were only 2 tick boxes and therefore no measure of how a person’s day to day activities were limited because of a health problem.

Image of Scottish question 8 from 2001

Scotland 2001


To see which of our published standard, additional and commissioned tables use this variable please use the Table Index.