How we use your information
The Scottish Health Survey is a survey which collects information about people’s health. It is used to provide information on the health of people in Scotland and factors that affect health such as eating habits, physical activity, smoking and drinking alcohol. Taking part is voluntary. Interviewers from NatCen Social Research and the Office for National Statistics carry out the survey. They will all carry an official identification card.
Why the survey is needed
The Scottish Health Survey provides information to monitor how well Scottish Ministers are meeting their duty under the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 to promote the improvement of the health of people in Scotland.
The information gathered through the survey contributes to:
- monitoring the population’s health
- progress made towards health targets
The survey is conducted as “public task in the public interest” under the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978. Some of the information you are asked to provide is sensitive personal data (special category data), for example questions on health, ethnicity and religion. We ensure that processing of this data is proportionate and necessary for statistical research purposes under the General Data Protection Regulation (article 9, section (2)).
How we got your details
To contact every household in Scotland would take too long and cost too much.
The survey includes a ‘child boost’ where interviews are only undertaken with or on behalf of children in the household. For the child boost, the sample drawn from the postcode address file is compared to the NHS Community Health Index Register to identify addresses with children.
What happens to the information you provide
Your answers are treated with care and with full respect for your privacy. The information is used for statistical and research purposes only and is dealt with in accordance with data protection legislation. We will not publish the survey results in a form that can reveal your identity (or that of your child if you complete the survey on their behalf). The information collected in the survey (but no information that would allow you to be identified) is made available via the UK Data Service for use by approved researchers and academics. Researchers and academics may also request access to more detailed data that is not available through the UK Data Service. These requests are assessed and – if approved – are governed by Data Access Agreements. These formal agreements set out strict requirements for the processing and safekeeping of personal data.
If you take part in the survey, your survey answers (or those of your child) will be linked to some information from your (or your child’s) NHS health records in relation to:
- visits to hospital and length of stay
- information about diagnosis, treatments and hospital stays for cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and psychiatric episodes
- if you pass away, the date and cause of death
- COVID-19 positive test results and vaccinations
Linking to this additional information increases the value of the information you provide. To link to your health records we need to send your name, address and date of birth to Public Health Scotland (PHS) so they can identify your health records. PHS only use your personal details for this purpose and will not share them with anyone else.
Your survey responses may be linked to other datasets only if approval is granted by the relevant governance and NHS research ethics groups.
What happens if you agree to be contacted about further research?
In the future, we may want further research to be conducted among particular groups of people to help improve health or health services. With your permission, your name, contact details and relevant survey answers will be passed on to the either us or research agencies for this purpose. This information will only be released for statistical and research purposes carried out by reputable research organisations and you will not be identifiable in any published results. Any information passed to any other organisation will be treated in accordance with data protection legislation and will not be used for any purposes other than further research about health or health services.
Your data will not be provided to any companies for the purpose of direct marketing.
What happens if you agree to complete Intake24
In some survey years adult participants will be asked to complete the online dietary tool Intake24. If you agree to take part, you will be given an anonymous username by your interviewer, this will enable you to log in securely and anonymously to Intake24 online and allow the NatCen researchers to link your Intake24 answers with the answers you gave in the Scottish Health Survey household interview.
The Intake24 dataset containing responses for each person but not linked to other survey answers or including anything that identifies each person will be stored by the University of Cambridge (which provides the online tool) for one year after all Scottish Health Survey data has been archived and by the Scottish Government as for the other survey data.
Your name, email and mobile telephone number, if you agree to provide them, will be used by NatCen to send you an instant link to Intake24. If you cannot access Intake24 online, with your consent, NatCen will share your name and telephone number with the University of Cambridge for the sole purpose of completing the diary with you by telephone. The University of Cambridge will store your contact details separately to your survey answers and will delete them at the end of the study.
How long your information is stored for
All your survey answers are stored securely and confidentially under the terms of data protection legislation. The survey dataset, containing your survey responses but not including anything that identifies you, will be stored by NatCen Social Research whilst it holds the contract to undertake the survey and by the Scottish Government. This is to allow analysis to be carried out as required. We routinely review (at least every five years) whether it is still appropriate to hold the survey information. Your personal details are stored separately from your survey answers.
We keep this information for the purpose of follow-up research and so we can link your survey responses with other datasets. We only link survey responses to other datasets where approval has been granted by the relevant governance and NHS research ethics groups.
Taking part in the survey is voluntary. By choosing to take part your answers will help identify priorities for health provision and services for the future. If you do take part, you do not have to answer all of the questions.
Your decision on whether to take part will not affect any health care you receive, and no health or social care professional involved in your care will know whether or not you chose to take part.
Under data protection legislation you have the right to be informed about how your personal data will be used (see ‘How to contact us’ below).
The time take to complete the SHeS interview differs according to the number of people in the household. The table below shows the average time taken to complete an interview for each household type in 2019.
Cases (outliers removed1)
Average interview length (mins)
1 adult, 1 child
1 adult, 2 children
2 adults, 1 child
2 adults, 2 children
3 adults, 1 child
1. The top 5% and bottom 5% of cases for each sample type have been excluded as outliers.
If you have been invited to take part in the 2024 Scottish Health Survey development survey please see the privacy information.
- File type
- 3 page Word document
- File size
- 18.0 kB
If you would like further information regarding how your information is used, please contact the Scottish Health Survey team.
More information for interviewees, is available on the Scottish Health Survey page on gov.scot.
If you have any concerns about how your information is being used, you can contact the Data Protection Officer by emailing DataProtectionOfficer@gov.scot.
- First published
- 13 January 2020
- Last updated
- 31 October 2023
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