Scottish Health Survey

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

About the study

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 2021. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, interviews were undertaken remotely using a telephone approach. Doorstep interviewer visits to recruit participants and arrange interviews were permitted for the final three months of fieldwork. You can read the full report on the Scottish Government website.


  • The proportion of adults who self-assessed their general health as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ decreased with increasing levels of deprivation, from 87% in the least deprived Scottish Index of multiple Deprivation (SIMD) quintile to 60% in the most deprived quintile.
  • In 2021, 8% of adults reported feeling lonely ‘most’ or ‘all of the time’ in the last week. This was higher for younger people - 14% of those aged 16-24 compared with 4% of those aged 65 and over.
  • One in twenty adults (5%) in 2021 reported living with long COVID, with mental wellbeing lower among these adults (mean Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) score of 44.7) compared with those without long-Covid (mean WEMWBS score of 48.8).
  • In 2021, the average energy intake per person per day was significantly higher for men (1,786 kcal/day) than for women (1,495 kcal/day).
  • Food insecurity was more prevalent among younger adults – 14% 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 1% of those aged 75 and over.
  • In 2021, the majority of children aged 5-15 met the recommended guideline of at least 60 minutes of activity on average per day in the previous week – 71% including school-based activities and 60% excluding school-based activities.
  • Smoking rates have declined steadily since 2003, with 11% of adults identifying as current smokers in 2021 compared with 28% in 2003. While it is clear that the prevalence of cigarette smoking has been falling since 2003, the size of the drop between 2019 and 2021 should be treated with caution, due to the change in the method of data collection.
  • In 2021, 3% of adults reported ever having had a problem with drugs, with less than 0.5% saying they still had a problem. Adults who had used any drug in the last 12 months had significantly lower mental wellbeing as measured by WEMWBS on average than those who had not (45.4 and 49.1 respectively).
  • Online gambling participation has doubled from 7% in 2012 to 14% in 2021.


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

There were two phases of fieldwork for SHeS 2021. During Phase 1, potential participants were contacted by letter and asked to opt-in to taking part in an interview conducted over the phone.  In phase 2 involved new sample being issued for the final three months. Potential respondents were again contacted by letter, but then recruited to participate by interviewers knocking on their door, in what is termed a ‘knock-to-nudge’ methodology. Interviews were still conducted by telephone. Participants aged 16 and above were also invited to complete two online recalls using Intake24 ( to get a more complete picture of people’s diet.

Participants from the child boost sample were invited to opt in via letter for the entire fieldwork period.

In the 2021 report comparisons are made with data collected earlier in the series (1998-2019 for children and 2003-2019 for adults). However, it should be noted that, due to the difference in method for 2021, caution should be applied when comparing results from this survey year to those for previous years. Further details can be found in volume 1 of the 2021 report.

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. The questionnaire is published as part of the Technical Report which for the 2020 survey can be found here.