At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Survey conducted in-person.
  • Principal source of information on the health status of the U.S. population.
  • Monitors health objectives.
  • Periodic supplements on cancer include information about diet and nutrition and physical activity.
  • Includes data on children’s height and weight (respondent-assessed).
  • Large, nationally representative sample allowing for estimation of many population subgroups.
  • Includes data on children's sleep (parent-assessed).



To collect data on the use of health status and health services by individuals in the United States (U.S.).

Target Population

Civilian, noninstitutionalized population living in households or group quarters (e.g., dormitories) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


Began in 1957. Conducted annually. Most recent year conducted was 2018.

There is a planned 2019 redesign.


National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Special Note(s)

Different supplemental modules with new topics or with more detail on core topics are conducted each year.

Division of Health Interview Statistics
National Center for Health Statistics
Phone: +1 (301) 458-4901 or +1 (301) 458-4001

HUD Programs and Associated Administrative Data:

In collaboration between the National Center for Health Statistics and HUD, data for participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and National Health Interview Survey were linked to data from HUD administrative records. The HUD administrative files contain housing, income, and program participation data for recipients of Multifamily programs (MF), Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV), and Public Housing (PH) programs in all states, the District of Columbia, and some territories. The NCHS-HUD Linked Data enables researchers to examine the health and well-being of individuals who live in HUD-assisted housing.

A Primer on HUD Programs and Associated Administrative Data:
NCHS-HUD Linked Data: Methodology and Analytic Considerations:


Sample Design

Cross-sectional, multistage probability design, representative sampling of households. For further information on sampling design:">

Sample Size

44,552 households, containing 112,053 persons in 45,597 families. 36,697 sample adults and 13,380 sample children in 2014.

40,220 households, containing 97,169 persons in 40,875 families. 33,028 sample adults and 11,107 sample children in 2016.

Special Note(s)

Households are selected using a complex sample design—sample is drawn from selected geographic areas (counties or groups of adjacent counties). Each family in a household is interviewed as a separate case. Individual families are determined based on information that is obtained about the relationships of household members to the reference person. Sampling and interviewing are continuous throughout each year.

Data are collected through personal household interviews in which a household respondent provides basic demographic and relationship information about all household members; these relationships determine the number of families that comprise the household. A family respondent is selected to collect information on all persons in the family on such topics as basic indicators of health status, activity limitations, injuries, health insurance coverage, and access to and utilization of health care services. From each family in the NHIS, one sample child (if any children aged 17 years or younger are present) and one sample adult are randomly selected to complete an additional questionnaire. Information about the sample child is obtained from the sample child respondent who is an adult residing in the household who is knowledgeable about the child’s health.

Key Variables


NameMethods of Assessment
Age of all adults and childrenInterview/questionnaire
Birthplace and citizenshipInterview/questionnaire
Disability (ADL/IADL*; cognitive; equipment use; general; hearing; movement/physical; vision)Interview/questionnaire
Family size and structureInterview/questionnaire
Home ownershipInterview/questionnaire
Income/poverty status (including imputed)Interview/questionnaire
Race/ethnicity all adults and childrenInterview/questionnaire
Sex of all adults and childrenInterview/questionnaire
Welfare/food assistance program participationInterview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Selected dietary variables (2000, 2005, 2010) (adults only)Dietary screener

Physical Activity-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Leisure-time physical activity (adults only)Self report


NameMethods of Assessment
Daytime fatigue/sleepiness and/or alertnessInterview/questionnaire with parent
NapsInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep continuity: Average wake bout lengthInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep continuity: Number of awakeningsInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep continuity: Number of awakeningsInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep disturbances and quality: Bedtime resistanceInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep disturbances and quality: Trouble falling back asleep at nightInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep disturbances and quality: Trouble falling asleepInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep timing and regularity: Regularity of bedtimeInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep timing and regularity: Regularity of wake time (may be unreliable in measured as a single itemInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep timing and regularity: Time to bedInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep timing and regularity: Time woke upInterview/questionnaire with parent
Social sleep environment: Family sleep behaviors (e.g., bedtime routines, bedtime rules, sleep hygiene, sleep schedule)Interview/questionnaire with parent


NameMethods of Assessment
Birth weight of child (retrospective)Interview/questionnaire
Current height, weight of child (ages 12+ years)Interview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
State, primary sampling unit (PSU), countyN/A


NameMethods of Assessment
Health care access and useInterview/questionnaire
Health insurance: type of coverage, cost/policy, holder/source, reason for no coverageInterview/questionnaire
Health status of individual family members (including children)Interview/questionnaire
Number of working adults in familyInterview/questionnaire

Special Note(s)

*ADL: Activities of Daily Living / IADL: Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Data Access and Cost

Data Availability

Access public-use data.


Free of charge.

Special Note(s)

For data not available from public-use releases (e.g., geographic data) contact the National Center for Health Statistics Research Data Center (RDC). Researchers must submit proposals to obtain restricted use data. Learn more about guidelines for submitting proposals.

The NHIS Early Release Program provides analytic reports and preliminary microdata files on an expedited schedule. Two reports are released quarterly: one report provides estimates of 15 selected key health indicators. The second report provides quarterly estimates of health insurance coverage by selected demographic characteristics. The first report for each data collection year is released in about September and is based on NHIS data from the previous January through March. Each of the three subsequent quarterly reports is based, respectively, on an additional three months of data.


Geocode Variable(s)

State, primary sampling unit (PSU), county.

Existing Linkages

NHIS mortality data have been linked to National Death Index (NDI) death certificate record. Restricted-use and Public-use Linked Mortality Files have been updated with mortality follow-up data through December 31, 2011.

• NHIS data on individuals have been linked to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data on Medicaid Enrollment.

• NHIS data on individuals have been linked to Environmental Protection Agency data on average annual air pollution exposure, which are geocoded to the respondent’s block group of residence. These SAS data files are available in the National Center for Health Statistics Research Data Center but, because they contain geography-specific information, are not available for public use.

NHIS data on individuals have been linked to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey-Household Component (MEPS-HC) data.

• NHIS data on children have been linked to the National Immunization Program data on childhood immunizations.

Special Note(s)

State identifiers are not publicly released. Access this information through the National Center for Health Statistics Research Data Center.

With regard to data linkages and related activities, the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) used the NHIS sampling frame in its first five cycles.

Selected Publications


For publications and information, contact Data Dissemination Branch, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3311 Toledo Road, Room 5407, Hyattsville, Maryland 20782-2003, 1 (800) 232-4636.

National Center for Health Statistics. Summary health statistics for U.S. children: National Health Interview Survey, 2011 data. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2012. DHHS Publication No. (PHS)-2013-1582, Vital and Health Statistics, Series 10, 254.

Parekh N, Lin Y, Dipaola RS, Marcella S, Lu-Yao G. Obesity and prostate cancer detection: Insights from three national surveys. American Journal of Medicine 2010;123(9):829-835.

Parker JD, Schenker N, Ingram DD, Weed JA, Heck KE, Madans JH. Bridging between two standards for collecting information on race and ethnicity: An application to Census 2000 and vital rates. Public Health Reports 2004;119(2):192-205.


Thompson FE, McNeel TS, Dowling EC, Midthune D, Morrissette M, Zeruto CA. Interrelationships of added sugars intake, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity in adults in the United States: National Health Interview Survey, 2005. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2009;109(8):1376-1383.

Thompson FE, Midthune D, Subar AF, Kahle LL, Schatzkin A, Kipnis V. Performance of a short tool to assess dietary intakes of fruits and vegetables, percentage energy from fat and fiber. Public Health Nutrition 2004;7(8):1097-1105.

Physical Activity-Related

Barnes PM, Schoenborn CA. Trends in adults receiving a recommendation for exercise or other physical activity from a physician or other health professional. NCHS Data Brief 2012;86:1-8.

Berrigan D, Dodd K, Troiano RP, Reeve BB, Ballard-Barbash R. Physical activity and acculturation among adult Hispanics in the United States. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 2006;77(2):147-145.

Carlson SA, Densmore D, Fulton JE, Yore MM, Kohl HW, III. Differences in physical activity prevalence and trends from 3 US surveillance systems: NHIS, NHANES, and BRFSS. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2009;6(Suppl 1):S18-S27.


Akinbami LJ, Ogden CL. Childhood overweight prevalence in the United States: The impact of parent-reported height and weight. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2009;7(8):1574-1580.