National Survey of Problems Facing Elderly Americans Living Alone, 1986 (ICPSR 9379)

Published: Mar 5, 1992

Principal Investigator(s):
Karen Davis; The Commonwealth Fund Commission on Elderly People Living Alone

Version V1

This survey was designed to obtain a clear picture of the resources, problems, needs, and preferences of the eight million elderly Americans who live alone. The questions cover not only living arrangements and demographic information, but also economic well-being, health, health care, health insurance, difficulties and fears, need for help, obtaining help, and opinions on policies that have been proposed on the behalf of the elderly. The living arrangements of those in the sample fell into three categories: approximately 30 percent lived alone, 54 percent lived with spouses, and 16 percent lived with children or others. The sample included 903 widowed women over age 65. Comparable data on a Hispanic American sample, who were interviewed with the same questionnaire, are available in NATIONAL SURVEY OF HISPANIC ELDERLY LIVING ALONE, 1988 (ICPSR 9289).

Davis, Karen, and The Commonwealth Fund Commission on Elderly People Living Alone. National Survey of Problems Facing Elderly Americans Living Alone, 1986. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1992-03-05.

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Commonwealth Fund (#9030)

1986-06 -- 1986-07

1986-06-11 -- 1986-07-31

Age distribution of the sample is 65-69 (N = 798), 70-74 (N = 530), 75-79 (N = 667), 80-84 (N = 330), and 85+ (N = 154). Racial distribution is White (N = 2,240) and Black (N = 160).

Random digit dialing of approximately 23,000 telephone numbers nationwide was used to locate and interview a representative cross-sectional sample of 2,002 persons aged 65 and over. This was supplemented by an oversample of 504 additional persons aged 75 and over. All data in the survey are weighted by sex, age, race, education, region, and living arrangements to conform with the 1985 Census Bureau estimates.

Noninstitutionalized elderly persons in the continental United States.

telephone interviews

survey data



1991-03-05 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


  • Data in this collection are available only to users at ICPSR member institutions.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented.
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