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Life Opportunities Survey Glossary

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The Life Opportunities Survey (LOS) explores disability in terms of the barriers to participation that people experience.

The findings presented are based on longitudinal data collected from the first two waves of the survey.

Respondents to the LOS were interviewed for the first time in wave one (between June 2009 and March 2010) and then followed up in wave two (June 2010 to March 2012), approximately one year after their initial interview.


Adults are defined as persons aged 16 or over. LOS interviews all people aged 16 and over in sampled private households.

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A LOS respondent’s age was their age on the date of their Wave One interview and is provided in one of the following ways:

From the respondent’s date of birth

If date of birth is not given, respondents are asked their age

If age is not given the interviewer will estimate the respondent’s age

For consistency within this Report age at Wave One has been used in all analyses.

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Social, economic or physical barriers that stop people taking part in activities as much as they would like to. People with impairment may face a range of barriers, for example:

  • attitudinal, for example discriminatory or prejudicial attitudes and practices among employers, health professionals and service providers 

  • policy, resulting from policy design and delivery which do not take disabled people into account

  • physical, for example through the design of the built environment, transport systems, or as a result of the provision of inaccessible information about services

Respondents to the LOS were asked to select all barriers that applied to them from the list of options provided (link)

Examples of barriers include: discrimination, the attitudes of other people, inaccessible buildings, public transport and information, limited income, not having anyone to meet or speak to, as well as lack of support, equipment and adjustments.

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Confidence interval

A confidence interval is the range of values between which the population parameter is estimated to lie (also referred to as margin of error). Surveys produce statistics that are estimates of the real figures for the population under study. These estimates are always surrounded by a margin of error plus or minus a given range. At the 95 per cent confidence level, over many repeats of a survey under the same conditions, one would expect that these confidence intervals would contain the true population value in 95 per cent of cases. When assessing the results of a single survey it is assumed that there is a 5 per cent chance that the true population value will fall outside the 95 per cent confidence interval calculated for the survey estimate.

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Control Group

A subset of adults who did not report any impairment was selected to form a ‘control’ group. The adults in this group were chosen to provide a comparison group that is similar to the adults with at least one impairment on several key characteristics associated with impairment – sex, age, region of residence, and the urban/rural classification of residence. The size of the control group was designed to be half that of the group of adults with at least one impairment, that is for the Wave Two sample there were two adults with impairment for every one person in the control group. All of the adults in the control group, as well as all adult members of their households, were interviewed in person at Wave Two. Analysis of results from this group will be included in the LOS Wave Two Report, Part II

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Discrimination occurs when a particular person or group of people are treated less favourably because of their personal characteristics such as: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sexual orientation.

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Easy Read

The Easy Read format was created to make written documents accessible to people with learning disabilities. Easy Read uses pictures to support the meaning of text. It can be used by a carer or support worker to talk through a document so that they can understand it, for example a letter from the council about council tax charges. Easy Read is often also preferred by readers without learning disabilities, as it provides the essential information on a topic without a lot of background information. It can be especially helpful for people who are not fluent in English.

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People who are in employment may be employees, self-employed, on a government supported training programme, or unpaid family workers. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines people as being employed if they are in one or more hours of paid employment a week.

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Great Britain

Great Britain in LOS refers to the whole of England and Wales, including off shore islands, and Scotland; not including North of the Caledonian Canal. It does not include Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

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A household is defined as a single person or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room or sitting room or dining area.

A person is generally regarded as living at the address if he or she (or the respondent providing the proxy information) considers the address to be his or her main residence. There are, however, certain rules which take priority over this criterion.

Children aged 16 or over who live away from home for purposes of either work or study and come home only for holidays are not included at the parental address under any circumstances.

Children of any age away from home in a temporary job and children under 16 at boarding school are always included in the parental household.

Anyone who has been away from the address continuously for six months or longer is excluded.

Anyone who has been living at the address for six months or longer is included even if he or she has his or her main residence elsewhere.

Addresses used only as second homes are never counted as a main residence.

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Impairment at both waves group

This group of adults reported at least one impairment at both waves one and two. 

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Impairment status

Impairment relates to the loss of physiological and psychological functions of the body such as loss of sight, hearing, mobility or learning capacity. Impairment should be distinguished from medical conditions or loss of bodily structure. For example glaucoma is a medical condition; loss of vision is the impairment it causes. Activity limitations are restrictions an individual may have in executing physical or mental tasks or actions as a result of their impairment, for example, being unable to read newsprint at arm’s length without glasses or other aids and adaptations.

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Impairment groups

The LOS Wave Two Report Part I focuses on three subgroups of adults who reported at least one impairment at Wave One, Wave Two, or at both Waves of the LOS. These three impairment groups were analysed:

  1. Onset-acquired - adults who did not report any impairment at Wave One but reported at least one impairment at Wave Two

  2. Offset - adults who reported at least one impairment at Wave One but did not report any impairment at Wave Two

  3. Impairment at both waves - adults who reported at least one impairment at both Waves One and Two

The adults who did not report any impairment at both waves will be analysed in the LOS Wave Two Report Part II.

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Personal income is the amount of money received by individuals from all sources. Income includes wages and salaries as well as amounts received from state pensions and benefits, tax credits, private pensions, investments and self-employment income. Household income, the total personal income of household members, is a widely used indicator of living standards.

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All households were contacted via telephone as part of a keep-in-touch-exercise (KITE) prior to face-to-face interviews at Wave Two. During the KITE, contact and household details were updated for the face-to-face interview.

The KITE interview for households that contained only adults in the onset-screening group included a screening questionnaire to establish if any adult in the household had acquired an impairment. Only those households containing at least one adult identified as acquiring an impairment were then interviewed face-to-face.

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Longitudinal survey

A survey where the same respondents are regularly re-interviewed after a set interval (e.g. one year).

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Longitudinal survey

Longitudinal weights are used for the longitudinal population - those respondents who are present at both Wave One and Two of the LOS. These weights are representative of the population at the time of Wave One.

These weights incorporate adjustments for non-response and differential sampling probabilities of selection at Wave One (LINK) The weights also adjust for loss to follow-up (LTFU) at Wave Two.

Analyses carried out for the LOS Wave Two Report Part I focuses on changes, reported by respondents, from Wave One to Wave Two and therefore only utilises longitudinal weights.


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Loss-to-follow-up (LTFU) cases

These are the cases from Wave One that could not be traced at Wave Two, and therefore contribute to the attrition of the sample

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Offset group

This group of adults reported at least one impairment at Wave One but did not report any impairment at Wave Two.

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Onset-acquired group

The onset rate is calculated as the percentage of adults who reported at least one impairment at Wave Two out of all adults who did not report any impairment at Wave One.

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Onset-screening group

All of the remaining adults, interviewed at Wave One, who did not have an impairment at Wave One and who were not selected for the control group were assigned to the ‘onset screening group’. These adults were not interviewed in person at Wave Two, unless they or an adult member of their household had acquired an impairment between Wave One and Wave Two.  A brief telephone interview (KITE) was conducted with the onset-screening group between Wave One and Wave Two in order to establish if anyone in their household had acquired an impairment.

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Participation restriction

In LOS, an adult has a participation restriction if they experience at least one barrier to taking part in at least one of the following life areas:

  • education and training

  • employment 

  • economic life and living standards, for example being able to afford expenses or make loan repayments

  • transport 

  • leisure, social and cultural activities 

  • social contact

  • accessibility of housing

  • accessibility outside the home

Examples of barriers include: discrimination, the attitudes of other people, inaccessible buildings, public transport and information, limited income, not having anyone to meet or speak to, as well as lack of support, equipment and adjustments


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Proxy interview

Interviewers can take a proxy interview rather than lose information about a member of the household. This information is best obtained from someone who has a reasonable amount of knowledge about the respondent’s affairs. Whenever possible, interviewers ask the respondent for permission to take the proxy information before interviewing another member of the household on his or her behalf.

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Reference group

A group of 60 disabled people and representatives of organisations of disabled people who have been actively involved in guiding decisions about the accessibility of LOS, its design (including topic coverage) and the dissemination of results.

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Region / Government Office Region (GOR)

The regional level geography used in the analyses of this report is based on Government Office Regions (GORs).The nine GORs are the primary statistical subdivisions of England and were also the areas in which the former Government Offices for the Regions fulfilled their role. Each GOR covers a number of local authorities. Government Office Regions were established in 1994. They replaced the Standard Statistical Regions as the primary classification for the presentation of English regional statistics. After the Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010, it was confirmed that the GORs would close on 31 March 2011. However, there is still a requirement to maintain a regional level geography for statistical purposes.

The nine GORs within England are: North East; North West; East Midlands; South West; Yorkshire and Humberside; East of England; West Midlands; South East and London. In addition to these, further breakdowns are also provided for Great Britain (GB): England, Wales and Scotland.

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Response rate

A response rate provides information about the number of cases that took part in the survey and reasons for non-participation. The response rate for LOS is provided at the household and individual level, more information is available in Annex 3.

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Sampling error

A sample, as used in LOS, is a small-scale representation of the population from which it is drawn. As such, the sample may produce estimates that differ from the figures that would have been obtained if the whole population had been interviewed. The size of the error depends on the sample size, the size of the estimates and the design of the survey. The sampling error is computed and used to construct confidence intervals. Sample error is also taken into account in tests of statistical significance.

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Standard error

This is a measure of possible error in the estimate and is important because the value of the error reflects how much sampling variability the estimate shows. The size of the standard error is dependent on the sample size, so in general the larger the sample size the smaller the standard error. Standard errors for key findings will be available in the LOS Wave Two Report Part II.

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Statistical significance

This indicates the probability with which we are confident that the difference between the estimates under examination did not occur by chance. Unless stated, all significance referred to in this report is at the 95% level. This means that the probability that the difference happened by chance is low (1 in 20).

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A wave is a discrete period of interviewing. In order to cover all the sampled households it is necessary to spread each LOS wave over two years. The first wave took place between June 2009 and March 2011. The second wave took place between June 2010 and March 2012.

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See also Longitudinal Weighting.

In this report, all percentages and means presented in the tables are based on data weighted to compensate for differential non-response. The unweighted base number is included in the tables and represent the number of people/households interviewed in the specified group. A full description of the method of weighting used in this report can be found in Annex 2.

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Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.