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How difficult to stand 2 hours without special equipment

Codes and Frequencies

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FLSTAND2HR indicates whether sample adults had difficulty standing or being on their feet for about two hours, by themselves and 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 . . . stand or be on your feet for about 2 hours?"


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)


Respondents selected the appropriate response from choices listed on a card. For 1997-1999, the card listed 5 choices: Not at all difficult (0); Only a little difficult (1); Somewhat difficult (2); Very Difficult (3); and Can't do at all (4). Beginning in 2000, a sixth choice was added: Do not do this activity (6).


For years prior to 2000, a small number of cases were coded as "Do not do this activity" in the NHIS public use data files. The Field Representative's Manual for 2000 explained,

Beginning in 2000, for all activities (not just shopping, participating in social activities, and relaxing at home as in previous years), respondents had the opportunity to respond in the interview that they 'do not do this activity.' This response was added to certain functional activities (related to walking, climbing, standing, sitting, stooping, reaching, grasping, carrying, and pushing) in the 2000 NHIS. In prior years, respondents were not permitted to use this response during the course of the interview, but might have been reassigned to 'do not do this activity' in the course of data editing based on information obtained from other condition questions.

Although, technically, "Do not do this activity" was a category for FLSTAND2HR for 1997 forward in the NHIS public use files, this category is not actually comparable across the two periods 1997-1999 and 2000 forward. Very few cases (only 5 in 1997) were coded as "Do not do this activity" via data editing, compared to the number of respondents who self-selected this category for 2000 forward (424 in 2000). To increase comparability across years, researchers are advised to combine the categories "Can't do at all" and "Do not do this activity" when analyzing data collected both before and after 2000 for this variable.


  • 1984; 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018: Sample persons age 55+ who have difficulty standing for two hours.
  • 1997-2013: Sample adults age 18+.


  • 1984, 1997-2018