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National Statistics
Publication, Part of

Health Survey for England - 2007: Healthy lifestyles: knowledge, attitudes and behaviour

Official statistics, National statistics, Survey
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
Geographical Granularity:
Date Range:
01 Jan 2007 to 31 Dec 2007


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. Since 1994, the survey has been carried out by the National Centre for Social Research and the Department of Epidemiology at University College Medical School.

The 2007 Health Survey for England focuses on knowledge, attitudes and behaviour on key aspects of lifestyle - smoking, drinking, eating and physical activity. Both adults and children were asked about their views on what constitutes healthy behaviour, their knowledge of government recommendations and the factors that may encourage or discourage healthy behaviour.

A secondary focus was the impact of the smokefree legislation. The 2007 survey allowed an initial examination of the effect of the legislation by looking at adults' and children's smoking behaviour and their exposure to other people's smoke, pre and post 1 July 2007 (the date the legislation came into effect). As well as questions being asked, saliva samples were taken and tested for cotinine, an indicator of recent nicotine exposure.

Trend tables are also produced each year focusing on key changes in core topics and measurements over time.

Key Facts

Attitudes and knowledge in 2007:

  • about a quarter of adults aged 16-64 (27 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women) thought they knew the current recommendations for physical activity, but when asked how much physical activity they thought people their own age should do, fewer than one in ten (six per cent of men and nine per cent of women) specified a level equivalent to the Chief Medical Officer's minimum recommended target. A further 25 per cent of men and 23 per cent of women specified a level of physical activity greater than the minimum recommendations, while most adults (over two-thirds - 69 per cent of men and 68 per cent of women) either under-estimated how much physical activity adults should do or did not know.
  • most boys and girls aged 11-15 perceived themselves to be either very or fairly physically active compared with other people their age (90 per cent and 84 per cent respectively). Approximately two-thirds (68 per cent of boys and 67 per cent of girls) of those in the lowest activity group thought they were very or fairly physically active compared with others.
  • more women than men knew that five portions of fruit and vegetables should be eaten each day (62 per cent of men and 78 per cent of women). When presented with a list of options 14 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women correctly selected the option that represented a portion of fruit or vegetables and selected no other options.
  • 63 per cent of boys and 73 per cent of girls aged 11-15 knew that five portions of fruit and vegetables should be eaten each day. However, only 22 per cent of boys and 21 per cent of girls this age could correctly identify what a portion was from a list of options.
  • approximately nine in ten adults had heard of units of alcohol. However, fewer adults knew what the recommended maximum daily intake was - 35 per cent of men and 43 per cent of women had heard of units but said that they didn't know what the recommendations were for their sex. Only 14 per cent of men thought that four units was the recommended daily maximum for a man and 6 per cent of women thought that three units was the recommended daily maximum for a woman. A further 15 per cent of men and 23 per cent of women thought the recommendation was three units and two units respectively.

Assessment of impact of smokefree legislation:

  • the HSE 2007 allowed an initial examination of the impact of smokefree legislation. There were no overall differences in the proportion of men and women with a cotinine level indicative of smoking, pre and post 1 July 2007. Neither was there a significant change in the proportion of people who smoked. However, the mean cotinine level among current cigarette smokers was significantly lower after 1 July, indicating a reduction in cigarette consumption after the legislation was introduced. After the implementation of the ban, the mean cotinine levels of female non-smokers showed a reduction, implying that female non-smokers were exposed to less second hand smoke.
  • among children (aged 8 to 15), no differences were found in self-reported smoking behaviour or cotinine levels before and after the introduction of the smokefree legislation. Similarly, no significant differences were found in the exposure to smoke of children before and after 1 July. However, the proportion of children aged 0-12 who were exposed to smoke for two or more hours by a carer was lower than in 2006 (seven per cent of boys and ten per cent of girls in 2007, compared with 18 per cent for both boys and girls in 2006).


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Last edited: 5 February 2019 12:53 pm