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Duration of functionally limiting musculoskeletal problem: Number of units


This is a 2-digit numeric variable.


For Sample Adults age 18+ who, without using special equipment, had any difficulty with one or more functional activities (FLANY), and for whom a musculoskeletal problem was reported as a condition causing a functional activity limitation (FLMUSCLE), FLMUSCLENO reports the number of time units the respondent stated when reporting the duration of the musculoskeletal problem.

Data on the duration of the limiting musculoskeletal problem were collected via the question, "How long have you had [a musculoskeletal problem]?" Respondents could answer this open-ended question using the time unit of their choice (i.e., days, weeks, months, years, or since birth). The original responses to the question are reported in two complementary variables, FLMUSCLETP (which specifies the time unit) and FLMUSCLENO (which reports the number of such units). As noted in the Codebooks for 1997 forward, "years are topcoded at 85." For the NHIS public use files, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) recoded the results from these two variables to create two other variables using standard time units: years (FLMUSCLEY) and groups of months (FLMUSCLEMO).

The 1997 forward NHIS Survey Descriptions caution that because the ad hoc classified condition categories (such as a "musculoskeletal problem" (FLMUSCLE)) were not included on flashcards given to respondents during the course of the interview, it is possible that weighted frequencies for these conditions may be underestimated. Thus, the NCHS recommends that "these variables should be analyzed with care."


The variable is completely comparable over time.


  • 1997-2018: Sample adults age 18+ who have difficulty with activities due to musculoskeletal or connective tissue problem.


  • 1997-2018