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Scottish Health Survey

Fun run

The only annual national source of information on the health and factors relating to the health of people living in Scotland.


The Scottish Health Survey gives us an accurate picture of the health of the Scottish population.

It provides information about how healthy people are, what health services people use and examines the health and health-related behaviour of different groups in society.

The data we collect also informs the Scottish Government National Performance Framework and feeds into nationwide health strategy.

The latest report is from 2020. Due to COVID-19 restrictions the report is based on a shortened, snapshot survey administered in August and September 2020 by telephone and is not directly comparable to previous SHeS years. You can read the full report on the Scottish Government website.


  • Almost half of adults (47%) reported living with a long-term condition, with prevalence increasing with age.
  • Adults who were advised to shield from COVID-19 reported lower mental wellbeing than those who were not.
  • Half of adults reported they could turn to two or more people in a crisis, and mental wellbeing increased the higher this number was. Men (9%) were more likely than women (5%) to say they had no one or only one person to whom they could turn to for support in a crisis.
  • Just over a third (37%) of adults were in the healthy weight range, while 35% were overweight and 28% were obese. Women (43%) were more likely than men (34%) to report that their weight had increased since the beginning of lockdown.
  • Food insecurity was more prevalent among younger adults – 8% of those aged 16-44 had worried they would run out of food in the last 12 months because of a lack of money compared with 2% of those aged 75 and over.
  • Just under half of adults (46%) reported undertaking enough activity to meet the moderate or vigorous physical activity guidelines, with men (51%) more likely than women (42%) to do so.
  • Significant proportions of people reported changes to their drinking habits since the start of lockdown – 24% reported that the number of days on which they drank alcohol had increased and 12% said the amount of alcohol they consumed had increased.
  • Around one in 10 adults identified as a current smoker and 1 in 20 identified as current e-cigarette users.
  • Most adults (94%) reported having no issues with their mouth, teeth or dentures.


The Scottish Health Survey was first conducted in 1995 and then again in 1998 and 2003 and has been carried out annually since 2008.

We use random probability sampling to select people to take part in the survey. This means that everyone in Scotland has an equal chance of being chosen and ensures that the results are representative of the Scottish population. We also make sure to ask people all over Scotland, including those living more rurally in the highlands and islands. 

Typically, the Scottish Health Survey has always been conducted using face-to-face interviews with respondents. However, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, in 2020 the survey was conducted for the first time via telephone. In 2020, 1,920 adults participated in the snapshot telephone survey.

Since 2008 there has been a core set of questions and topics that are included every year and a series of topics that are rotated and included biennially. Because we repeat many of the same questions over time, we are able to identify real changes in Scotland’s health and health behaviours. The questionnaire is published as part of the Technical Report which for the 2020 survey can be found here.

Access the latest report