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Codes and Frequencies

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NOWAF identifies persons currently on full-time active duty with the armed forces. Persons in the armed forces (code 2 in NOWAF) are not eligible to be selected for the NHIS sample because the NHIS is reflective of the civilian, non-institutionalized population. Any civilians residing with someone in the armed forces in non-military housing are still eligible for the sample. Prior to 2019, persons in the sample who were on full-time active duty with the armed forces are given a weight of zero for PERWEIGHT. Because the survey is designed for the study of the civilian, non-institutionalized population, documentation in the 2018 NHIS public use data documentation specifies that "analysts are cautioned not to include members of the Armed Forces in their analyses." Persons who formerly served in the armed forces and were honorably discharged are identified in HONDSCG.

The question about whether an individual was now on full-time active duty with the armed forces was posed if a household contained one or more persons between age 16 and 64 (1997) or between age 18 and 64 (1998 forward). Active-duty armed forces members were considered household members if they were stationed locally and usually slept in the sample unit; they were not considered household members if they were stationed elsewhere (for example, overseas or in a different state).

According to the 2020 Survey Description, for some variables, including NOWAF, the 2020 responses of sample adults that were part of the 2020 longitudinal sample were overwritten with their 2019 responses "to mitigate disclosure risks associated with differences in response from repeated measures among the same Sample Adults" (33). The sample adults' actual 2020 responses can be accessed through a Research Data Center (RDC). For more information on the 2020 longitudinal sample, please see SALNGPRTFLG.


The Field Representative's Manuals for 1997-2000 provides two extended definitions of what constitutes "full-time active duty with the armed forces." Beginning in 2001, only the first definition is provided.


According to the first definition, "'Active duty in the Armed Forces' means full-time active duty in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or any National Guard unit currently activated as part of the regular Armed Forces. Included in 'active duty' is the 6-month period a person may serve in connection with the provisions of the Reserve Forces Act of 1955 and cadets appointed to one of the military academies, such as West Point, the Naval Academy, etc. Also include persons on full-time active duty in the military service of a foreign nation."

According to the second definition, this group includes persons "now serving full-time (including the 6-month period of training in) U.S. Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine Corps/Coast Guard, (or) Military service of a foreign country; in a reserve branch of any of the above currently activated as part of the regular forces; U.S. public health service commissioned officers currently assigned to any branch of the armed forces; members of the National Guard currently blanketed into the regular forces by presidential order; cadets in the U.S. military academy (West Point, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, or Coast Guard Academy)."

The second definition further specifies whose service should not count as full-time active duty with the armed forces, namely, "persons whose only service is in the Coast Guard temporary reserve; employees of the merchant marine, Maritime Commission, or American Field Service; civilian employees of the Department of Defense; persons in the National Guard or reserve unit not currently activated as part of the regular armed forces, even though currently attending meetings or summer camp, (or) currently activated by Gubernatorial order because of a disaster or civil disorder (flood, riot, etc.)."


While the basic meaning of this variable is completely comparable over time, major questionnaire changes introduced in 2019 may affect comparability with earlier years. The NHIS questionnaire was substantially redesigned in 2019 to introduce a different data collection structure and new content. For more information on changes in terminology, universes, and data collection methods beginning in 2019, please see the user note.


  • 1997: Persons age 16 to 64.
  • 1998-2018: Persons age 18 to 64.
  • 2019-2022: Persons in a household in which at least one person is greater than 18 years old, at least one person's age is not guessd, and there is at least one non-deleted person age 17-64 years old or who is greater than or equal to 18 or whose age was guessed to be greater than or equal to 18.


  • 1997-2022