Health Survey for England - Health, social care and lifestyles

Summary

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.

2016 report and key findings - this was published on 14 December 2016.

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.


Why we do this survey

The HSE provides vital information, which is used by central government (the Department of Health 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 and other NHS bodies, charities and voluntary organisations. The survey is also widely used by universities for education, research and analysis purposes.

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 to local authorities

Managing the survey

The 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. The HSE survey for 2016 has been given a favourable opinion by the East Midlands Nottingham 2 Research Ethics Committee (Reference no 15/EM/0254).


Participants

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. The interview itself is relaxed and there's nothing to prepare. You can skip any questions you don't want to answer.


Data collected

The survey includes questions on your:

  • physical health
  • mental health and wellbeing
  • social care
  • lifestyle behaviours
  • physical measures such as height, weight and blood pressure

Confidentiality

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 in our publications section. The findings will not identify anyone who took part in the survey. 

The survey data

Data collected by the Health Survey for England will be held by NatCen Social Research and NHS Digital.

This data will never be presented in a form that can reveal any personal information that could be used to identify individuals. An anonymised copy of the dataset will be made available on the UK Data Service Catalogue, for the purposes of not-for-profit research, teaching or personal educational development. The UK Data Service is home to the UK's largest collection of digital social and economic research data. The data made available by the UK Data Service is subject to the NHS anonymisation standard.

We may also share more detailed data with approved researchers under a Data Sharing Agreement, following our independent scrutiny process for external data releases. This information will be used for statistical and research purposes only and individuals will not be identified.

Survey dataset

We're currently looking at making the dataset available for research purposes, whilst ensuring respondent confidentiality is protected. We recognise the high level of interest in the survey dataset and are working to try and ensure arrangements are put in place at the earliest opportunity.

We've recently reviewed how we manage access to survey datasets, and we've taken advice from experts at the Office of National Statistics.  Additional disclosure control measures are being applied to enable the dataset to be made available through the UK Data Service. We hope to make the 2015 dataset available soon.