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How difficult to go out to events without special equipment

Codes and Frequencies

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FLGOOUT indicates whether sample adults had difficulty going out to things like shopping, movies, or sporting events, by themselves without special equipment. This variable was one of a series asking about functional limitations.

The field representative began this section of the interview by stating, "The next questions ask about difficulties you may have doing certain activities because of a health problem. By 'health problem' we mean any physical, mental, or emotional problem or illness (not including pregnancy)." The actual question took the following form: "By yourself, and without any special equipment, how difficult is it for you to . . . go out to things like shopping, movies, or sporting events?"


The term "difficult" was respondent-defined. A brief definition of "special equipment" based on examples (i.e., "such as a cane, a wheelchair, a special bed, or a special telephone") was part of the preceding question. The Field Representative's Manual for 1997 forward defined "special equipment" as "any device, tool, utensil, instrument, implement, etc., used as an aid in performing an activity because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem." The Manual for 1997-2000 continued, "This includes the use of adult 'diapers' for incontinence. However, ordinary eyeglasses and hearing aids should not be considered 'special equipment.' For example: a spoon is not normally considered as 'special equipment'; however, a uniquely designed or functioning one used for eating by a person because of physical, mental, or emotional problems is considered 'special equipment.'"

Beginning in 2001, the Field Representative's Manual formally defined the words "by yourself." Specifically, "By yourself is considered to be without the help from another person or without hands-on assistance with performing an activity. Another person may be a friend, relative, paid helper, volunteer from an agency or organization or anyone else who helps the family member in doing the activities mentioned. He or she may be a household member or a non-household member."

A formal definition of "health problem" was also included in the Field Representative's Manual, with only slight changes in wording over time. The Manual for 1997 stated:

'Problem' is the Sample Adult's perception of a departure from physical, mental, or emotional well-being. This includes specific health problems, such as a disease or condition, a missing extremity or organ, or any type of impairment. It also includes more vague disorders not always thought of as health related problems or illnesses, such as alcoholism, drug dependency or reaction, senility, depression, retardation, etc.

No definition of terms except the aforementioned definition of "health problem" as "any physical, mental, or emotional problem or illness (not including pregnancy) was routinely supplied to respondents during the interview.

Related Variables 

Other questions in the series collected information about how difficult the sample adult found the following activities, if performed "by yourself and without using any special equipment":

  • Walking up 10 steps without resting (FLCLIMB)
  • Stooping, bending, or kneeling (FLSTOOP)
  • Reaching above the head (FLREACH)
  • Participating in social activities (FLSOCIAL)
  • Doing things to relax at home (FLRELAX)


This variable is completely comparable across years. For FLGOOUT, respondents were consistently given a card with six choices (including "Do not do this activity") from which to select their answer. FLGOOUT is therefore comparable for 1997 forward, unlike many of the other functional limitation variables in this series.


  • 1997-2013; 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018: Sample adults age 18+.


  • 1997-2018