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Health Survey for England - Health, social care and lifestyles

This is an annual survey looking at changes in the health and lifestyles of people all over the country. Find out more and download the latest survey report.

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.

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. 

Survey review

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.

Data collected

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

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 (available here); removing information that might identify individuals and making the information less detailed.

We may also share some more detailed data with approved researchers under a Data Sharing Agreement, following our independent scrutiny process for external data releases. NHS Digital will carefully review any requests (see ) and applicants will need to meet strict data governance standards. This information will be used for statistical and research purposes only and again individuals will not be identified.

Survey dataset

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. More information about which data items are available for each dataset can be found on the UK Data Service website. 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.  

Last edited: 17 July 2019 12:54 pm