At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Extensive geocodes can be accessed by approved researchers through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Research Data Center.
  • Data is nationally representative.
  • A crosswalk file has been developed to facilitate data linkages.
  • Survey detail allows researchers to relate health service use, medical expenditures, and health insurance data to demographic, employment, economic, health status, and other characteristics of survey respondents.
  • MEPS sample is sub sample of previous years’ NHIS sample.
  • Provides information on child preventive health care, including height, weight, and physician’s advice about modifications to diet and physical activity.
  • Links to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).



To collect data about the use, cost, and payment of health services from families and individuals in the United States (U.S.).

Target Population

Nationally representative civilian noninstitutionalized individuals and families in the U.S.


Began in 1996. Conducted annually. A new panel of sample households is selected each year, and data for each panel are collected for two calendar years. The two years of data for each panel are collected in five rounds of interviews.


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Special Note(s)

MEPS currently has two major components: the Household Component and the Insurance Component. The Household Component provides data from individual households and their members, which is supplemented by data from their medical providers. The Insurance Component is a separate survey of employers that provides data on employer-based health insurance.

Data related to BMI are collected in MEPS-HC once per panel.

Medical Expenditure Panel Survey
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Phone: +1 (301) 427-1406


Sample Design

Panel survey (overlapping panel design), national probability sample. The MEPS sample is a sub-sample of the prior year’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

Learn more about the sampling design for the Household Component (HC) of the survey.

Sample Size

For the household component:

12,756 families and 30,716 persons in 2017.

13,587 families and 33,259 persons in 2016.

Learn more about sample sizes across the years.

Special Note(s)

Learn more about sampling design and methodology as well as reference dates for each round of the household survey.

Key Variables


NameMethods of Assessment
Disability (ADL/IADL*; cognitive; equipment use; hearing; movement/physical; vision; work-related)Interview/questionnaire
Whether born in U.S. and how long lived outside U.S.Interview/questionnaire
Employment status and history, wage/salary levels, income and income sourcesInterview/questionnaire
Home ownership and valueInterview/questionnaire
Language primarily spoken at homeInterview/questionnaire
Main reason for not having usual source of health careInterview/questionnaire
Marital statusInterview/questionnaire
Metropolitan statistical areaInterview/questionnaire
Type of health insurance coverageInterview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Whether a doctor or other health provider has ever given respondent or child advice about healthy eating; if so, how long agoInterview/questionnaire
Whether health professional has recommended anyone in family to eat fewer high-fat or high-cholesterol foodsInterview/questionnaire

Physical Activity-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Whether respondent spends a half an hour or more in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least 5 times a weekInterview/questionnaire
Has a doctor or other health provider ever given you or child advice about the amount and kind of exercise, sports, or physically active hobbies {you/he/she} should have?Interview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Sleep disturbances and quality: Other (list variable)Interview/Questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Whether doctor measured and weighed child; if so, whenInterview/questionnaire
Parent/caregiver’s estimate of child’s height and weightProxy-report
Respondent’s height and weightSelf-report


NameMethods of Assessment
Census region, stateN/A


NameMethods of Assessment
Continuous and current estimates of annual health care expenditures at the person and household levelInterview/questionnaire
Health conditions, events, and medications for respondentInterview/questionnaire
Health status (physical/mental impairments) of any family membersInterview/questionnaire
Questions about child’s health, including medical conditionsInterview/questionnaire

Special Note(s)

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

Data Access and Cost

Data Availability

Download household survey data from the MEPS website.


All publicly released files are available on the MEPS website and are free of charge.

Some data are restricted for reasons of confidentiality. Some of the unreleased, restricted-use household survey data can be accessed through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) or Census Bureau Research Data Centers for an initial fee of $300 (includes up to 4 hours of programming). This fee is waived for full-time students working on dissertations or other degree requirements, and Federal Government agencies.

Special Note(s)

Restricted-use data files are accessible for approved projects through the AHRQ Research Data Center or one of the regional Census Bureau Research Data Centers.. An application/ proposal is required. Learn more.


Geocode Variable(s)

Census region, state, metropolitan statistical area. Geocodes necessary for merging MEPS data to external data are available for use with approved Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Data Center projects. Researchers do not have direct access to restricted geocodes. A contractor creates merged files. Restricted geocodes available through the AHRQ Data Center include latitude and longitude, census block group, census tract, county, Designated Market Area, and census place.

Existing Linkages

AHRQ has developed a MEPS crosswalk file that allows data users to merge MEPS public-use data files with the linked person records on National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) files. MEPS/NHIS link files are available only through the AHRQ Data Center. Additionally, qualified researchers can also access the MEPS/NHIS Link files through the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Data Center (RDC) network, and the U.S. Census Research Data Center (RDC) network.

MEPS data on individuals have been linked to Health Resources and Services Administration Area Resource File data on health facilities, health professions, resource scarcity, health status, economic activity, health training programs, and socioeconomic and environmental characteristics.

Selected Publications


Publications on all MEPS topics, including obesity, are available on the MEPS website.


Basu A. Forecasting distribution of body mass index in the United States: Is there more room for growth? Medical Decision Making 2010;30(3):E1-E11. Epub 2009 Nov 25.

Monheit AC, Vistnes JP, Rogowski JA. Overweight in adolescents: Implications for health expenditures. Economics and Human Biology 2009;7(1):55-63. Epub 2008 Aug 6.

Nadler EP, Brotman LM, Miyoshi T, Fryer GE Jr, Weitzman M. Morbidity in obese adolescents who meet the adult National Institutes of Health criteria for bariatric surgery. Journal of Pediatric Surgery 2009;44(10):1869-1876.

Skinner AC, Mayer ML, Flower K, Weinberger M. Health status and health care expenditures in a nationally representative sample: How do overweight and healthy-weight children compare? Pediatrics 2008;121(2):e269-277. Epub 2008 Jan 14.

Trasande L, Chatterjee S. The impact of obesity on health service utilization and costs in childhood. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009;17(9):1749-1754. Epub 2009 Mar 19. Erratum in: Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009;17(7):1473.



Download data


Data query tool


To join the MEPS List Server, send an e-mail to Learn more.

Mailing List for MEPS Periodic Digest