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Design and Content

This section provides a summary of the Scottish Health Survey design, details of the achieved sample size for previous surveys (ie from 1995 to the most recent survey), the main topics covered in the survey and the average length of an interview. Click on the relevant menu link below.

If you require more details, please contact the Scottish Health Survey Team.

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Click on the links below to access technical information about the Scottish Health Survey:

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Survey Design

1995-2011

There is a two stage interview process to the survey: a personal interview is carried out by a trained interviewer which is then followed by a nurse visit. The interview covers self-assessed health and disability, health service use, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, smoking, drinking, common mental health problems, eating patterns and physical activity. The nurse asks some further questions, for example on use of prescribed medicines, takes a series of anthropometric and biomedical measurements, including blood pressure, waist and hip circumference and lung function and collects blood, urine and saliva samples.

From 1995 to 2003 all respondents were offered the nurse visit.  From 2008, only one sixth of the sample were offered a nurse visit.

2012-2015

In 2012 the nurse visit has been removed.   Many of the measures previously conducted by the nurse are now being collected by specially trained interviewers (e.g. blood pressure, saliva and urine samples and waist circumference measurement). Measures which have been excluded from 2012 onwards are: lung function tests, demispan and hip measurements.  Venous blood samples are also excluded in 2012 but it is planned to replace these with dry blood spot tests from 2013 onwards.

Core and Modular Structure

The core and modular structure introduced in 2008 continues for 2012 onwards, with a core set of questions going to the whole sample and two modules of questions which go to a proportion of the sample.

The rotating biennial module contains a range of questions on cardiovascular disease, asthma, eating habits, physical activity, mental health, dental health and accidents. These questions are asked every second year.

In 2008-2011, there was a module of questions on knowledge, attitudes and motivations to health funded by NHS Health Scotland.  This was a replacement for the Health Education Population Survey (HEPS).  This has been discontinued for 2012 onwards.

From 2012-2015 a biological module has been introduced containing the interviewer-administered alternative to the nurse visit.

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Sample Size

The age range of the survey has changed over the years.

In 1995, only adults aged 16-64 were interviewed.

In 1998,  adults aged 16-74 and children aged 2-15 were interviewed.

From 2003 onwards, adults aged 16+ and children aged 0-15 were interviewed.

The sample sizes achieved for each year are as follows:

Year Child Adult (main) Adult (HB boost) Adult (total)
1995 0 7,932 N/A 7,932
1998 3,892 9,047 N/A 9,047
2003 3,324 8,148 N/A 8,148
2008 1,750 5,861 604 6,465
2009 2,607 6,831 700 7,531
2010 1,793 6,770 475 7,245
2011 1,987 7,040 504 7,544
2012 1,787 3,885 930 4,815
2013 1,839 3,898 996 4,894
2014 1,668 3,671 988 4,659

From 2015-2016 the survey has been designed to produce an achieved sample size of around 4,000 adults and 1,800 children per year.

Health Board Boosts

From 2008, Health Boards were given the option to boost their samples beyond the level which was funded centrally at the outset of the survey. In 2008 and 2009, three Health Boards took this opportunity - Borders, Fife and Grampian. Each boosted their sample by an additional 200 adults.  In 2010 and 2011, Fife and Grampian continued to boost by 200 adults per year.  Boosted interviews only comprise core questions, no module questions are asked.

In 2012, three boards boosted their adult samples by 300 interviews - Fife, Grampian and Dumfries & Galloway. In 2013, four boards boosted - Fife and Grampian by 300 interviews and Ayrshire & Arran and Western Isles by 200 interviews.  In 2014, Ayrshire and Arran, Fife, and Grampian boosted by 300, Western Isles by 100.

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Survey Content

Most of the questions are asked by an interviewer using Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI), i.e. via a laptop computer. Questions which are more sensitive in nature are asked via a self-completion booklet (see below for details) or a Computer Assisted Self-Interview (CASI) via a laptop computer.

Each Scottish Health Survey questionnaire consists of core questions which are asked every year (see topics below) and also questions in a rotating (biennial) module (see topics below).

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Core Content

The core content of the Scottish Health Survey 2008-2011 surveys is listed below:

  • Household composition
  • General health
  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and use of services
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Physical activity
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption
  • Eating habits (children)
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Dental health
  • Socio-economic core (including economic activity, education, ethnicity and religion)
  • mental health
  • contraception
  • Height and weight

The topics covered in 2012-2015 remains broadly the same, with the addition of questions on problematic gambling.    For details of specific changes made to questions within topics, please refer to the questionnaire review report.

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Rotating biennial module

2008/2010

The module content of the 2008 and 2010 surveys was as follows:

  • Respiratory and CVD symptoms
  • Asthma
  • TV viewing and outdoor physical activity - adults and children
  • Eating habits - adults (questions are asked of children in the core survey)

2009/2011

In 2009 and 2011 the module content was as follows:

  • Accidents
  • Dental services
  • Social capital
  • Discrimination and harassment
  • Stress at work

2012/2014

In 2012 and 2014 the module content is broadly similar to that in 2008 and 2010:

  • Respiratory and CVD symptoms (reduced set of questions)
  • Asthma (reduced set of questions)
  • Barriers and motivations to sport
  • Eating habits - adults (questions are asked of children in the core survey)

2013 / 2015

In 2013 and 2015 the module content is broadly similar to that in 2009 and 2011:

  • Accidents
  • Dental services
  • Social capital
  • Discrimination and harassment
  • Stress at work

Refer to the questionnaire review report for detailed changes to questions.

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Knowledge, Attitudes and Motivations to Health (KAM) Module (previously HEPS)

This annual Scottish Health Survey Module (2008-2011 only) contained questions concerning health related knowledge, attitudes and behavioural motivations. It was a replacement for the Health Education Population Survey (HEPS) which was previously run by NHS Health Scotland.

This has been discontinued in 2012.

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Nurse Module

The content of the nurse module (2008-2011) is detailed below:

  • details of prescribed drugs
  • vitamin supplements
  • food poisoning
  • depression, anxiety and self-harm
  • nicotine replacement products
  • blood pressure
  • waist and hip circumferences
  • demi-span
  • lung function
  • blood sample
  • saliva sample (for cotinine)
  • urine sample (for dietary sodium)

From 2012 this is replaced by the interviewer administered biological module.  This contains:

  • details of prescribed drugs (less detailed than previously)
  • vitamin supplements (less detailed than previously)
  • depression, anxiety and self-harm
  • nicotine replacement products
  • blood pressure
  • waist circumference
  • saliva sample (for cotinine)
  • urine sample (for dietary sodium)

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Interview Length

The time take to complete the interview differs according to the number of people in the household and on the type of interview (core, child boost or health board boost). The tables  below show the average time taken to complete an interview for each household and interview type between 2012 and 2014.

  2012 2012 2013 2013 2014 2014
Addresses Interview Length Addresses Interview Length Addresses Interview Length
CORE SAMPLE            
1 adult 1316 49 1302 49 1201 50
1 adult, 1 child 127 60 162 60 143 58
2 adults 669 77 649 74 636 75
1 adult, 2 children 143 71 139 70 118 70
2 adults, 1 child 119 91 109 85 113 80
3 adults 66 94 59 91 58 87
2 adults, 2 children 112 91 142 93 129 97
3 adults, 1 child 29 103 21 107 0 -
4 adults 10 106 12 108 0 -
TOTAL 2591 61 2595 61 2398 63
CHILD BOOST            
1 child 306 35 288 34 253 38
2 children 315 48 320 49 302 50
TOTAL 621 41 608 41 555 44
HEALTH BOARD BOOST            
1 adult 330 48 404 45 317 43
2 adults 237 71 233 67 274 62
3 adults 22 87 21 85 22 75
4 adults 4 101 4 92 0 -
TOTAL 593 57 662 54 613 53

Note: Average interview lengths are based on median lengths in minutes.

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