Scottish Health Survey

Some improvements to diet but children’s eating habits worse than adults’.

Scotland’s Chief Statistician today released The Scottish Health Survey 2016, providing information on the health, and factors relating to health, of adults and children in Scotland.


Twenty per cent of adults met the 5-a-day fruit and vegetable recommendation in 2016, a similar level to 2015 (21 per cent). Twelve per cent of adults did not consume any fruit and vegetables on the previous day (a reduction from 9 per cent in 2003).  However, between 2014 and 2016, the proportion of adults consuming non-diet soft drinks at least once a day fell from 27 per cent to 20 per cent and consumption of oily fish at least once a week increased from 25 per cent to 32 per cent.  Adults consumption of biscuits has reduced from  34 per cent in 2008 to 28 per cent in 2016.

Overall, children tended to consume foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar more frequently than adults, for example around half of children (51 per cent) ate sweets or chocolate at least once a day compared to 28 per cent of adults.


Around two-thirds (65 per cent) of adults in Scotland were overweight, including 29 per cent who were obese. These levels have been relatively stable since 2008. 

Seventy per cent of children were a healthy weight in 2016 which is in line with figures since 1998 which have fluctuated between 65 per cent and 72 per cent. There was a reduction in prevalence of the risk of obesity in children from 17 per cent in 2014 to 14 per cent in 2016.  

Smoking and e-cigarette use

The smoking rate remained at 21 per cent of adults in 2016, the same level as in 2015. The gap between smoking rates in the most and least deprived areas remained (35 per cent of those living in the most deprived quintile compared to 11 per cent of those living in the least deprived quintile).

Seven per cent of adults reported currently using e-cigarettes in 2016, the same level as in 2015, following an increase from 5 per cent in 2014. Around a fifth of adults aged 16-24 who had ever used e-cigarettes were currently using them (4 per cent were current users compared with 22 per cent reporting to have ever used e-cigarettes). For older age groups, around half of those who had ever used e-cigarettes were still using them.

The proportion of children exposed to second-hand smoke in the home (7 per cent ) remained at a similar level to 2015 (6 per cent) following a drop from 11 per cent in 2014.


Prevalence of exceeding the government recommendations for maximum weekly alcohol consumption (14 units a week for both men and women) declined significantly from 34 per cent in 2003 to 25 per cent in 2013 and has remained around this level since (26 per cent in 2016).

Other key findings from the report show:

  • Around two thirds of adults (64 per cent) met the guidelines for physical activity (150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week) in 2016, a similar level to 2015 (63 per cent).  Seventy six per cent of children met the guidelines of 60 minutes or more physical activity a day, similar to levels since 2013 (fluctuating between 73 and 76 per cent) and an increase from 71 per cent in 2008.
  • Thirty one per cent of adults reported two or more of the following risks behaviours: drinking over the recommended maximum; smoking; obesity; failing to meet the physical activity guidelines. Obesity and failing to meet the physical activity guidelines were the most common combination for those with two risks.  Adults in the most deprived areas were twice as likely to have two or more of these risks (41 per cent) than those living in the least deprived areas (20 per cent).
  • Fifteen per cent of adults provided regular, unpaid care to a family member, friend or someone else in 2016. Of children aged 4-15, 3 per cent provided care.
  • In 2016, 15 per cent of adults exhibited signs of a possible psychiatric disorder (GHQ-12 of four or more), the proportion remaining relatively static since 2003. Young adults aged 16-24 were most likely to report signs of a possible disorder (19 per cent) but their mean life satisfaction score was the highest of all age groups.
  • Adult living in the most deprived areas reported lower life satisfaction and lower mental wellbeing than those in the least deprived areas.
  • In 2016, 19 per cent of adults had ever been diagnosed with a Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) or diabetes condition by a doctor (similar to levels of 18-20 per cent since 2008).
  • Four per cent of adults reported having Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). a level that has remained relatively constant since 2008.

The figures released today were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


The Scottish Health Survey 2016

Official statistics are produced in accordance with professional standards. More information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland

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