Scottish Health Survey 2019 published

Scotland’s Chief Statistician today released the Scottish Health Survey 2019, providing information on the health, and factors relating to health, of adults and children in Scotland.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)

In 2019, 15 per cent of adults reported having experienced four or more ACEs. The survey provides the first estimate of national prevalence of ACEs.

Those in the most deprived areas were almost twice as likely as those in the least deprived areas to have experienced four or more ACEs (20 per cent compared to 11 per cent).

Those who had experienced four or more ACEs were more likely than those with no ACEs to:

  • be obese (39 per cent compared to 29 per cent)
  • smoke (27 per cent compared to 10 per cent)
  • have a limiting long-term condition (52 per cent compared to 26 per cent)
  • have cardiovascular disease (21 per cent compared to 14 per cent)
  • have lower mental wellbeing (average WEMWBS wellbeing score of 46.0 compared to 52.0)
  • not meet the physical activity guidelines (41 per cent compared to 32 per cent).

Mental health

Self-reported rates of depression and anxiety continued to increase, with 14 per cent of adults reporting two or more signs of anxiety (compared to 9% in 2008/2009) and 12 per cent reporting two or more signs of depression (compared to 8% in 2008/2009). Seven per cent of adults reported ever having attempted suicide, the highest level recorded (4 per cent in 2008/2009).

In 2019, 10 per cent of adults reported feeling lonely often or all of the time in the last two weeks. Rates were much higher for younger adults (16 per cent for those aged 16-24) than for older adults (5 per cent for those aged 65-74). Those in the most deprived areas were much more likely to report feeling lonely often or all of the time (17 per cent compared to 6 per cent in the least deprived areas).

In 2019, the WEMWBS mean score (measuring mental wellbeing) for adults was 49.8, not a significant change since 2018 (49.4). Adults who felt lonely often or all of the time had much lower mental wellbeing than those who rarely or never felt lonely (mean scores of 37.8 and 52.9 respectively).

Food insecurity

In 2019, nine per cent of adults in Scotland reported 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, the same proportion as in 2018. In 2018/2019, almost a third (31 per cent) of single parents and a fifth of single adults aged under 65 living alone (20 per cent) had experienced this.


In 2019, the proportion of adults smoking was 17 per cent, down from 28 per cent in 2003 and the lowest level recorded to date.

The proportion of non-smokers with detectable cotinine exposure (indicating exposure to second hand smoke) has continued to decrease to 21 per cent in 2018/2019, down from 85 per cent in 2003 and 38 per cent in 2008/2009.

Other key findings from the report show:

  • the proportion of adults reporting their health as good or very good was 72 per cent in 2019, similar to the level of 71 per cent in 2018. Those in the most deprived areas were less likely to report good or very good health (54 per cent compared to 83 per cent in the least deprived areas)
  • around half of adults (47 per cent) reported living with limiting or non-limiting long-term conditions, similar to the level in 2018 (46 per cent)
  • in 2019, two in three adults (66 per cent) were overweight including obese (BMI of 25 kg/m² or greater), the highest level to date but not significantly different to levels over the previous ten years (between 64 and 65 per cent). Obesity levels (BMI of 30 kg/m² or greater) remained steady at 29 per cent
  • prevalence of children at risk of obesity in 2019 was 16 per cent. The level has fluctuated between 13 and 17 per cent since 1998
  • following a significant decrease in prevalence of hazardous or harmful drinking between 2003 and 2013, the proportion of adults drinking beyond the recommended maximum of 14 units has since remained relatively steady (24 per cent in 2019)
  • seven per cent of adults were current e-cigarette users, this proportion has remained stable since 2015
  • most adults in Scotland (91%) reported having no issues with their mouth, teeth or dentures. Those that did have any issues with their mouth, teeth or dentures had lower mental wellbeing (mean WEMWBS score) than those who had no such issues (mean scores of 44.6 compared to 50.3)
  • around one in five of all adults consumed five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day (22 per cent), similar to levels since 2003 (21 per cent)
  • around one in seven (14 per cent) of children aged 2 –15 met the five-a-day recommendation for consumption of fruit and vegetables, similar to levels since 2008 (12 per cent to 15 per cent)
  • 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 2019, the same level as in 2018
  • the proportion of children (aged 2–15) who met the recommended physical activity level over the last seven days, was 69 per cent, the lowest level in the time series
  • fifteen per cent of adults had any cardiovascular condition, 7 per cent had doctor diagnosed diabetes, 5 per cent had ischaemic heart disease and 3 per cent had had a stroke. There was no significant change since 2018
  • over half of adults (56 per cent) reported having ever attended CPR training.

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 main report is published alongside a short summary report and a large number of supplementary tables on the Scottish Health Survey website.

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

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

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) is based on a questionnaire that looks at indicators such as optimism, energy and self-acceptance. The WEMWBS measures mental wellbeing on a scale from 14 (lowest) to 70 (highest).


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