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National Statistics
Publication, Part of

Health Survey for England - 2012

Official statistics, National statistics, Survey
Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
Geographical Granularity:
Country, Regions, Strategic Health Authorities
Date Range:
01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2012



The Health Survey for England (HSE) is part of a programme of surveys commissioned by the Health and Social Care Information Centre. It has been carried out since 1994 by the Joint Health Surveys Unit of NatCen Social Research and the Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL (University College London). The study provides regular information that cannot be obtained from other sources on a range of aspects concerning the public's health and many of the factors that affect health. The series of Health Surveys for England was designed to monitor trends in the nation's health, to estimate the proportion of people in England who have specified health conditions, and to estimate the prevalence of certain risk factors and combinations of risk factors associated with these conditions. The survey is also used to monitor progress towards selected health targets.

Each survey in the series includes core questions and measurements (such as blood pressure, anthropometric measurements and analysis of blood and saliva samples), as well as modules of questions on specific issues that vary from year to year. In some years, the core sample has also been augmented by an additional boosted sample from a specific population subgroup, such as minority ethnic groups, older people or children; there was no boost in 2012.

This is the 22nd annual Health Survey for England. All surveys have covered the adult population aged 16 and over living in private households in England. Since 1995, the surveys have included children who live in households selected for the survey; children aged 2-15 were included from 1995, and infants under two years old were added in 2001. Those living in institutions were outside the scope of the survey. This should be borne in mind when considering survey findings, since the institutional population is likely to be older and less healthy than those living in private households.

The HSE in 2012 provided a representative sample of the population at both national and regional level. 9,024 addresses were randomly selected in 564 postcode sectors, issued over twelve months from January to December 2012. Where an address was found to have multiple dwelling units, a random selection was made and a single dwelling unit was included. Where there were multiple households at a dwelling unit, again one was selected at random.

All adults and children in selected households were eligible for inclusion in the survey. Where there were three or more children aged 0-15 in a household, two of the children were selected at random to limit the respondent burden for parents. A nurse visit was arranged for all participants who consented.

A total of 8,291 adults and 2,043 children were interviewed. A household response rate of 64 per cent was achieved. 5,470 adults and 1,203 children had a nurse visit. It should be noted that, as in 2011, there was no child boost sample in 2012. Thus the scope for analyses of some data for children may be limited by relatively small sample sizes.




Social Care

  • Among people aged 65 and over, a third of women (36 per cent) and just over a quarter of men (27 per cent) reported a need for help in the last month with at least one Activity of Daily Living. Help was needed most often with getting up and down stairs (21 per cent and 36 per cent respectively).

  • The majority of people aged 65 and over who received help in the last month were helped by an informal helper, rather than a formal one. For Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), 75 per cent of men and 71 per cent of women had informal helpers only, and the equivalent proportions for Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) were 78 per cent and 74 per cent respectively.

Physical Activity

  • The average sedentary time per weekday decreased from 5.0 hours in 2008 to 4.9 hours in 2012 in men and from 5.0 to 4.7 hours in women. On weekend days, the average sedentary time decreased from 5.6 hours in 2008 to 5.4 hours in 2012 in men and from 5.3 to 5.1 hours in women.

  • A higher proportion of boys than girls aged 5 to15 (21 per cent and 16 per cent respectively) were classified as meeting current guidelines for children and young people of at least one hour of moderately intensive physical activity per day. Among both sexes, the proportion meeting guidelines was lower in older children. The proportion of boys meeting guidelines decreased from 24 per cent in those aged 5 to 7 to 14 per cent aged 13 to 15. Among girls the decrease was from 23 per cent to 8 per cent respectively.


  • Participants who met government guidelines for the recommended levels of physical activity had higher well-being scores, on average, than others. Average well-being scores for those who met the government guidelines were 53.6 for men and 53.5 for women, compared with an average score of 50.0 and 49.1 respectively for those who were inactive.


  • In the last 12 months, 68 per cent of men and 61 per cent of women had participated in gambling activity; with men being more likely than women to do so. The most popular forms of gambling were purchase of tickets for the National Lottery (men 56 per cent, women 49 per cent); purchase of scratch cards (19 per cent and 20 per cent respectively), participation in other lotteries (14 per cent for both men and women) and betting on horse racing (12 per cent and 8 per cent respectively).

Drinking habits

  • Among adults who had drunk alcohol in the last week, 55 per cent of men and 53 per cent of women drank more than the recommended daily amounts, including 31 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women who drank more than twice the recommended amounts.

Children's overweight and obesity

  • Among children aged 2 to 15, 14 per cent of both boys and girls were classed as obese, and 28 per cent of both boys and girls were classed as either overweight or obese. Children aged 11 to 15 were more likely to be obese (19 per cent of both boys and girls) than those aged 2 to 10 (11 per cent and 10 per cent respectively).

  • The majority of parents of boys and girls aged 4 to15 were able to accurately judge if their child was too heavy. However, just under a quarter of parents who thought that their child was about the right weight in fact had a child who was overweight or obese (23 per cent among both fathers and mothers). The mean Body Mass Index (BMI) at which fathers reported that children were overweight was lower than for mothers (23.6 kg/m2 for fathers and 24.7 kg/m2 for mothers).

HSE data sets

  • Archived HSE data sets are available via the UK data services link for secondary analysis.


Related Links

Last edited: 8 December 2021 7:58 am