Asking Questions about Health on the Community Study

The Community Study was designed to keep respondents on the phone for a MAXIMUM of 30 minutes.

We had to be strategic in order to collect the most useful information in as short amount of time as possible. We also had to stay within the protocol of the Institutional Review Board (IRB), which oversaw the research and doesn’t approve particularly sensitive questions on community studies.

After consultations with service providers, statisticians, survey designers, and organizational planners, we landed on the following questions:

For health:
1. Describe your overall health. Is it… (Excellent/very good/good/fair/poor)

2. [If there were other adults in household:] Besides yourself, are there any adults in the household in fair or poor health? (Yes/no)

3. [If there are children ages 0-17 in the household:] Are there any children in the household in fair or poor health? (Yes/no)

For an impairment or disability:

4. Are you (or anyone in your household) limited in the kind of work, school, or housework you can do because of any impairment, disability, or chronic physical or mental health problem? (Yes/no)

5. [If yes:] Did you receive all services needed to help? (Yes/no/no services needed)

For mental health services:

6. During the past year, did you (or anyone in your household) need counseling or other mental health services? (Yes, and they were received/yes, but they were not received/no services needed)

Here is what we learned from these questions:

Of all Jewish households – i.e, any household with a Jewish adult – in the greater Pittsburgh area,  22% include at least one person in poor health. That accounts for roughly 6,000 households! These households are spread out relatively evenly among geographic regions and age of respondent.

Roughly 25% of households – 6,700 in number –  include at least one person who has a limitation on the amount or kind of work, school, or housework they can do because of an impairment, disability, or chronic physical problem or mental health issue.

While the households aren’t spread out quite as evenly among geography (17% of Jewish households in the North hills versus 31% in Squirrel Hill and 34% in the outlying areas of Allegheny County and its neighboring counties), the age distribution of the respondent is quite telling:

For respondents ages 35-49, 10% of all households include someone with an impairment/disability. For those ages 50-64, that number rose to 24%. And for those ages 65+, the number jumped to 40%. Interestingly, on the younger end, for those 18-34, that number was in the middle at 18%.

Of all Jewish households, 8% include a member who is unable to participate in Jewish life due to health limitations. We asked an open-ended question about what exactly the constraints were. The most commonly-cited obstacles were: mobility issues, mental/emotional challenges, and chronic illness or disease.

Finally, 38% of all Jewish households in greater Pittsburgh include a member who requires counseling or other mental health services. That number extends to 40% in households with minor children. And for respondents aged 18-34, it leaps toward 53%.

In the next post, we’ll look deeper in the mental health issue in our community to learn if we are in line with national (and local) trends or if Jewish Pittsburgh is an outlier in any regard.

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