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

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


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).

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DS2:  Frequencies File
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Study Description


Davis, Karen, and The Commonwealth Fund Commission on Elderly People Living Alone. National Survey of Problems Facing Elderly Americans Living Alone, 1986. ICPSR09379-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1991.

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This study was funded by:

  • Commonwealth Fund (#9030)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    health care, health insurance, health status, living arrangements, needs assessment, older adults

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1986-06--1986-07

Date of Collection:   

  • 1986-06-11--1986-07-31

Universe:    Noninstitutionalized elderly persons in the continental United States.

Data Type(s):    survey data

Data Collection Notes:

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).


Sample:    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.

Data Source:

telephone interviews

Extent of Processing:   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.


Original ICPSR Release:   1991-03-05

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