Scottish Health Survey: design and content

This section provides a summary of the Scottish Health Survey design, details of the achieved sample size for previous surveys.

This document is part of a collection

Survey design


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.


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.


Back to top