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Health Survey for England - 2008,Trend tables

Publication date: 09:30 December 17, 2009


The Health Survey for England is a series of annual surveys designed to measure health and health-related behaviours in adults and children living in private households in England. The survey was commissioned originally by the Department of Health and, from April 2005 by The NHS Information Centre for health and social care. The Health Survey for England has been designed and carried out since 1994 by the Joint Health Surveys Unit of the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) and the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University College London Medical School (UCL).

The trend tables focus upon key changes in core topics and measurements. These include estimates of the number, as well as the proportion, of people with a range of health related problems and lifestyle behaviours.

Detailed findings for 2008 are reported in the main report: Health Survey for England - 2008: Physical Activity and Fitness.

Key Facts

Adults aged 16 and over

  • Using directly comparable measures of self-reported physical activity, between 1997 and 2008, it is evident that the proportion meeting recommendations for levels of activity has increased among both men and women. This has been a gradual increase over the period, from 32 per cent in 1997 to 42 per cent in 2008 for men, and from 21 per cent to 31 per cent for women. For both sexes the proportion reaching this level of activity fell steadily with age.
  • Obesity levels increased from 13 per cent for men and 16 per cent for women in 1993 to 24 per cent for men and 25 per cent for women in 2008. However, the rate of increase in obesity prevalence has been slower in the second half of the period than the first half, and there are indications that the trend may be flattening out, at least temporarily. However, it is too soon to tell whether there continues to be a very gradual upward trend, with obesity in women in 2008 at its highest level since 1993 (though not significantly different from 2007).
  • For both men and women the proportion who consumed five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day increased significantly to a peak in 2006 and 2007, from 22 per cent in 2001 to 27 per cent in 2007 among men, and from 25 per cent to 31 per cent among women. However, the proportion of adults consuming five or more portions a day was lower in 2008, when 25 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women reported consuming five or more portions. Further years' data would be needed to see whether or not this is an important difference representing an underlying trend in consumption.


  • Between 1995 and 2008, the prevalence of obesity among boys aged 2-15 increased from 11 per cent to 17 per cent, and the equivalent increase for girls was from 12 per cent to 15 per cent. Among boys, the percentage who were obese has remained between 17 per cent and 19 per cent since 2002. Among girls, there was a significant decrease in obesity between 2005 and 2006 (from 19 per cent to 15 per cent), and levels have been similar from 2006 to 2008. Future HSE data will be important in confirming whether the overall trend in obesity is flattening or whether the longer term trend is still gradually increasing.
  • The proportion of children aged 8-15 who had ever smoked decreased overall from 18 per cent of boys in 1997 to 11 per cent in 2008, and from 20 per cent to 13 per cent of girls. On average over survey years, the proportion of boys and girls who had ever tried smoking increased with age.
  • 19 per cent of boys and 20 per cent of girls consumed at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day in 2008, compared with 10 per cent to 13 per cent between 2001 to 2004. There were no clear trends in the proportion of children in different consumption bands, or trends by age.


Date Range: 01 January 2008 to 31 December 2008
Geographical coverage: England
Geographical granularity: Country, Councils with Social Services Responsibilities

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