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Doctor visits in past 12 months


DV12 is a 3-digit-numeric variable.

0: None
995: 995+ visits
999: Unknown


DV12 reports the number of times the person saw or talked to a medical doctor (or assistant for 1982 forward) in the past 12 months, excluding times when an inpatient in a hospital. The number in DV12 includes any doctor visits in the previous two weeks that respondents had reported earlier in the survey.

In all years, the term medical doctor was respondent defined, but, as described in the comparability section, the definition was made more explicit from 1982 forward.

Responses to DV12 were not top-coded or grouped into intervals, and outlying values may, in a few cases, be implausibly high (e.g., 400 times a doctor was seen or talked to in the past 12 months). Researchers may wish to impose a topcode on the results (e.g., 365 contacts or more), or group into the results into a small number of categories (as is done with the similar post-1997 variable VISITYRNO, described below).


From 1969 to 1981, the question for DV12 remained unchanged.


Throughout this period prior to 1982, interviewers asked,"During the past 12 months, about how many times did - see or talk to a medical doctor?," adding, as needed, "Do not count doctors seen while a patient in a hospital. Include the - visits you already told me about."

In 1982, several small changes were made to the DV12 question, which then remained consistent through 1996.


First, the question added the word "assistant" (i.e., "see or talk to a medical doctor or assistant").

Second, the wording for 1982 forward indicated that the respondent should include times when other family members talked to a doctor/assistant about a child, as well as times when the child saw the doctor/assistant directly: "about how many times did [-/anyone] see or talk to a medical doctor or assistant [about -]?" In other words, from 1969 to 1981, when this question was asked for children, the interviewer asked how many times the child saw or talked to a doctor, whereas from 1982 to 1996, the question asked how many times the child or anyone talked to a doctor/assistant about the child.

The NHIS document Questionnaires from the National Health Interview Survey, 1980-84: Programs and Collection Procedures: Series 1, No. 24 also notes that while the conceptual definition of a doctor did not change, the survey text made the definition more explicit to survey respondents beginning in 1982. Initially, the definition of doctor was not given anywhere in the survey text. For 1982-1996, a survey question on doctor visits in the past 2 weeks (placed prior to DVI2 in the questionnaire) stated, "Include all types of doctors, such as dermatologists, psychiatrists, and ophthalmologists, as well as general practitioners and osteopaths."

According to the NHIS document The National Health Interview Survey Design, 1973-84,and Procedures, 1975-83: Programs and Collection Procedures: Series 1, No. 18, the small changes in question wording for 1982 forward were not thought to affect the values for DV12.

The NHIS public use files also incorporate a difference in the meaning of "0" for the DV12 variable between 1969-1981 and 1982-1996, but this difference is not present in the IPUMS NHIS variable for DV12.


In the original public use files, for the earlier period, a code of "0" for DV12 indicates either "None" or "unknown" in the public use files; for the later period, "0" means "None" only (with "unknown" receiving a code of "998" in the NHIS public use files). In IHIS, supplemental programming imposes a consistent meaning of "None" on the zero code for DV12. For IHIS, the meaning of ambiguous cases (i.e., those coded "0" in DV12 in the public use files for 1969-81) was determined by the value of a separate variable that specified whether the number of doctor visits in the past year was known or unknown.

For 1997 forward, the closest equivalent to DV12 is VISITYRNO.


VISITYRNO provides answers to the following question:

During the past 12 months, how many times have [you/sample child] seen a doctor or some other health care professional about [your own/sample child's] health at a doctor's ofice, a clinic, or some other place? Do not include times [you/sample child] [were/was] hospitalized overnight, visits to hospital emergency rooms, home visits, or telephone calls [and for 2000 forward "or dental visits"].

Along with the change in universe (from all persons for DV12 to sample adults and sample children for VISITYRNO), VISITYRNO imposed many restrictions on where and how the health professional was contacted, which limits comparability of the data before and after 1997. Furthermore, as mentioned above, responses to VISITYRNO were grouped into 10 categories (from "No visits" to "16 or more visits"), which users may wish to replicate for DV12.


  • 1969-1996: All persons.


  • 1969-1996