About the survey
The Health Survey for England (HSE) is an important annual survey looking at changes in the health and lifestyles of people all over the country.
Around 8,000 adults and 2,000 children take part in the survey each year. Information is collected through an interview and, if participants agree, a visit from a specially trained nurse.
The surveys, which have been carried out since 1991, provide regular information that cannot be obtained from other sources.
Find out more on the NatCen website.
Health Survey for England publication series
The Health Survey for England publication series includes links to the latest report and all previous HSE reports published by NHS Digital.
Health Survey for England content
The Health Survey for England content page includes information about which topics were included each year of the survey from 1993 to 2019.
There are core topics that are collected each year. Organisations including central government, charities and researchers can also fund additional topics to be included in specific survey years. Previous additional topics include questions about physical activity, mental health, gambling and asthma. In addition, organisations may choose to fund population boosts whereby a larger sample of a particular sub-group are interviewed, this provides more statistically robust data for that particular group. Previous boosts include children, ethnic minorities, or certain locations.
Why we do this survey
The HSE provides vital information, which is used by central government (the Department of Health & Social Care and Public Health England) and local government for a range of different purposes, including:
- monitoring changes in health and lifestyles
- monitoring the prevalence of specific health conditions
- planning services
- policy development
- monitoring and evaluating policy
Local authorities also use the survey to compare local indicators with national figures. Other organisations include NHS England, other NHS bodies, charities and voluntary organisations. The survey is also widely used by academics and researchers from different universities in England.
Examples of how information from the HSE has been used include:
- it found that lots of older people weren't aware that they had kidney disease and that levels of undiagnosed kidney disease are significantly higher than the official diagnosed levels - this issue inspired action to tackle the problem
- HSE is used to measure how many people are reaching the 5-a-day government target on fruit and vegetable consumption
- HSE found that many people didn't know they had high blood pressure, which can cause serious health problems - doctors now check blood pressure more regularly
- data from the survey is used as a component in the formula allocating public health grants from the Department of Health and Social Care to local authorities
Managing the survey
The current survey is being carried out by NatCen Social Research on behalf of NHS Digital.
The HSE surveys are reviewed yearly by an independent group of people called a Research Ethics Committee, to protect the safety, rights, wellbeing and dignity of those taking part.
Addresses are chosen at random, meaning every address in England has an equal chance of being included. This ensures that we get a truly representative picture of people living in private households in England.
What the survey involves
If you've received a letter asking you to take part, one of NatCen's interviewers will soon call at your home to arrange an interview at a time that suits you. You can say no if you don’t want to take part, but the interview itself is relaxed and there's nothing to prepare. You can skip any questions you don't want to answer. The interviewer will also ask if you would be happy for a nurse to visit. If you say yes to a nurse visit, they will ask you some questions and take some measurements, again you are free to skip questions or say no to any of the measurements.
The survey includes questions about your:
- physical health
- lifestyle behaviours such as smoking, exercise, fruit and veg consumption
- mental health and wellbeing
- social care
- physical measures such as height, weight and blood pressure (carried out at the nurse visit)
The answers from the questionnaire are put together with the answers collected from thousands of other people across England and the survey findings are published on our webpage, see the Health Survey for England publication series for the latest report.The findings will not identify anyone who took part in the survey.
The survey data
This data will not be presented in a form that can reveal any personal information that could be used to identify individuals. An anonymised dataset will be made available on the UK Data Service Catalogue. The data will be used by researchers within central and local government and academia to use the data for not-for-profit research to help improve health and social care services. The UK Data Service is home to the UK's largest collection of digital social and economic research data. The anonymised dataset made available by the UK Data Service has been carefully created following Government Statistical Service disclosure control guidance; removing information that might identify individuals and making the information less detailed.
We may also share some more detailed data with approved researchers and analysts under a Data Sharing Agreement, following our independent scrutiny process for external data releases. NHS Digital will carefully review any requests (see the Data Access Request Service) and applicants will need to meet strict data governance standards. This information will be used for statistical, policy and research purposes only and again individuals will not be directly identified.
The anonymised Health Survey for England datasets can be accessed via the UK Data Service. Strict measures are in place regarding who can access the data and users will need to agree to the licence conditions about use. Researchers interested in accessing the datasets will need to register with UK Data Service in the first instance.
Data is available for 1993 to 2017. The data items available will vary each year depending on what questions were asked that year and also disclosure control measures applied to the dataset to protect individuals rights. The health Survey for England Content page provides at a glance what topics were included each survey year. More specific information about which data items are available for each survey dataset can be found on the UK Data Service website.
We are currently working with central government, researchers and academics to define what data will be available for the 2018 survey year. A working group has been developed to oversee this work.