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Needs help with instrumental activities of daily living (IADL)

Codes and Frequencies

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LAIADL indicates whether the person currently needed the help of other persons in handling routine needs, such as everyday household chores, doing necessary business, shopping, or getting around for other purposes, because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem. In the Field Representative's Manuals for 1997 forward, routine needs were referred to as "instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)."


The Manuals for 1997 forward defined "help" as "hands-on" assistance with performing an activity." The Manual also stated, "An 'other 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."

The term "problem" was respondent-defined. Nonetheless, the Field Representative's Manuals for 1997 forward informed interviewers what was intended by this term. The text states,

A problem is defined as the respondent's perception of a chronic, perhaps permanent, departure from physical, mental or emotional well-being. Short-term disabilities (such as pregnancy or injury where full recovery is expected) should not be included as problems.

The text for 2001 forward also states,

A health problem is respondent defined. Generally speaking, though, it is any condition, physical, mental, or emotional, which causes limitation in activity . . . Do not include pregnancy or delivery as a health problem.

None of these definitions were routinely shared with respondents during the interview.

Related Variables 

While LAIADL deals with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), LADL deals with those activities of daily living (ADLs) related to personal care needs, such as eating, bathing, dressing, or getting around inside the house. In addition to the summary measure of functional limitation provided by LADL, a series of six variables deals with whether the person currently needed help with specific activities of daily living. These include: LABATH (for bathing or showering); LADRESS (for dressing); LAEAT (for eating); LATOILT (for using the toilet); LAHOME (for getting around inside the home); and LABED (for getting in and out of bed or chairs).


Apart from universe changes, this variable is completely comparable over time.


  • 1997: Persons age 5+.
  • 1998-2018: Persons age 18+.


  • 1997-2018