Scottish Health Survey 2018 published

Scotland’s Chief Statistician today released The Scottish Health Survey 2018, providing information on the health, and factors relating to health, of adults and children in Scotland.

Mental health

In 2018, 19 per cent of adults reported signs of a possible psychiatric disorder (GHQ-12 score of four or more), the highest level in the survey to date.

In 2018, the WEMWBS mean score (measuring mental wellbeing) for adults was 49.4, not a significant change since 2017 but the lowest level to date. The lowest wellbeing scores were among men aged 35-44 (47.2) and men aged 45-54 (47.6); the lowest mean score among women was for those aged 16-24 at 48.2.

In 2017/2018 adults providing unpaid care for a family member, friend or someone else for more than 35 hours per week had significantly lower levels of wellbeing than those providing fewer hours of care (WEMWBS mean score of 44.4 for those providing 35-49 hours of care a week compared to 51.2 for those providing up to 4 hours).


Sugary soft drink consumption has fallen considerably for both adults and children. In 2018, 10 per cent of adults consumed sugary drinks (at least once a day), down from 20 per cent in 2016. For children aged 2-15, the figure fell to 16 per cent in 2017/2018, down from 35 per cent in 2015/2016 and 38-39 per cent in the years 2008/2009 to 2013/2014.

Consumption of biscuits (at least once a day) has fallen from 34 per cent of adults in 2008 to 27 per cent in 2018 whilst consumption of cakes (two or more times a week) has fallen from 34 to 31 per cent over the same period.

Food insecurity

In 2018, nine per cent of adults in Scotland reporting having experienced food insecurity in terms of worrying that they would run out of food due to lack of money or resources during the previous 12 months. In 2017/2018, a quarter of single parents (25 per cent) and around a fifth of single adults aged under 65 living alone (21 per cent) had experienced this. Mental wellbeing was substantially lower for those reporting food insecurity: mean WEMWBS score of 42.2 compared with 50.3 for other adults.


In 2018, the proportion of adults smoking was 19 per cent, not significantly different to the rate in 2017 (18 per cent) and down from 28 per cent in 2003. The average number of cigarettes smoked by smokers continued to decline to 11.8 a day; down from 15.3 in 2003. The proportion of adults that have never smoked increased to 59 per cent (from 50 per cent in 2003).

Seven per cent of adults were current e-cigarette users, the same proportion as in 2017. The majority of e-cigarette users (54 per cent) are now ex-smokers, compared to 37 per cent in 2014/2015.

59 per cent of adults who had used e-cigarettes in an attempt to stop smoking, found they helped, compared to 51 per cent of those that used Nicotine Replacement Therapy products such as nicotine patches, gum or lozenges.


In 2018, the reported prevalence of doctor-diagnosed asthma for children aged 0-15 continued to decrease to 8 per cent in 2018, down from 16 per cent in 2003.

Other key findings from the report show:

 The proportion of adults reporting their health as good or very good fell to 71 per cent in 2018, the lowest figure recorded and down from levels of 75-77 per cent between 2008 and 2011. Older adults were much less likely that younger adults to report their health as good or very good.

  • Around two-thirds (65 per cent) of adults in Scotland were overweight, including 28 per cent who were obese. These levels have been relatively stable since 2008.
  • Prevalence of children at risk of obesity in 2018 was 16 per cent. The level has fluctuated between 13 and 17 per cent since 1998.
  • Twenty four per cent of adults drank at hazardous or harmful levels, the same as in 2017 and down from 34% in 2003.
  • The percentage of men drinking more than four units on their heaviest drinking day declined significantly between 2003 (45%) and 2018 (36%). The percentage of women drinking more than three units on their heaviest drinking day also declined significantly between 2003 (37%) and 2018 (28%).
  • Around two thirds of adults (66 per cent) met the guidelines for physical activity (150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week) in 2018, the highest level to date though the proportion has not changed significantly since 2013 (64%).
  • In 2018, 16 per cent of adults had any cardiovascular condition, 7 per cent had doctor diagnosed diabetes, 5 per cent had ischaemic heart disease (IHD), and 3 per cent had had a stroke. There was no significant change since 2017.
  • The proportion of adults providing unpaid care for a family member, friend or someone else in 2017/2018 remained at 15% among those aged 16 and over and 4% among children aged 4-15.

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


Key indicators for NHS health boards and some local authorities (where the sample is large enough) are available via the new Scottish Health Survey App which is available alongside the reports.

Further breakdowns for some smaller population groups are also being published on smoking, long-term conditions, general health and caring indicators from the Scottish Survey Core Questions, which combines data on these questions from three major Scottish Government household surveys. These breakdowns will be available at:

Official statistics are produced in accordance with professional standards. See standards of official statistics in Scotland for more information.


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