Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2021/22: Public attitudes on alcohol and tobacco use and weight

A report on the findings from the 2021/22 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey module on public attitudes about where responsibility lies with respect to those with harmful alcohol use, high tobacco use and those living with overweight or obesity.

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Chapter 2: The Study

The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey

The Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey has been run annually by the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen) since 1999. This report presents findings from the Scottish Government module of questions concerning the public's attitudes towards people with harmful alcohol or high tobacco use and those living with overweight or obesity.

A random sample of all those aged 16 and over living anywhere in Scotland (including the Highlands and Islands) were interviewed. Fieldwork for SSA 2021/22 began on 21st October 2021 and ceased on 27th March 2022.

SSA 2021/22 was completed by telephone by a random sample of respondents invited by post. Previously the survey was administered face to face by interviewers who knocked on doors of randomly selected addresses. The change was due to the Pandemic. Further details are in the accompanying Technical Report.

Letter invitations to take part were issued to 21,775 addresses, of which 1,349 households opted-in and 1,043 provided at least one interview. A maximum of two adults per household were invited to take part in the survey. A total of 1,130 interviews were achieved in total. Assuming 10% of addresses were vacant, derelict or ineligible for other reasons,[44] these figures equate to an opt-in rate of 7% and a response rate among opted-in households of 77%. Data are weighted in order to correct for non-response bias and differential selection probabilities due to deliberate over-sampling of rural areas and those living in the most deprived areas, and to ensure that they reflect the age-sex profile of the Scottish population. Further details about the SSA survey are available in the Technical report referred to earlier.

Question design

This 2021/22 module included six questions aimed at capturing stigmatising views towards those experiencing harmful alcohol or high tobacco use, or those living with overweight or obesity. They included perceptions of the level of societal and individual responsibility concerning these health issues. The questions formed part of a wider module that also included questions on attitudes towards problem drug users.

A question on the extent people think that the responsibility lies with the individuals themselves or society in relation to those experiencing harmful alcohol use was previously asked in the 2013 Scottish Social Attitudes survey. Similarly, a question was asked in the 2016 survey about who should be responsible for reducing the numbers with overweight or obesity in Scotland. All questions are presented in full in Appendix A. Where relevant, views are compared to those expressed in previous surveys to gauge change over time, although with some caution, see Analysis section.

All six questions were either based on previously established questions or were cognitively tested and/or piloted between July and September 2021 to check that respondents understood and were able to answer the questions proposed (see Appendix A or SSA Technical Report).

Cognitive testing involved asking a sample of 14 respondents a sub-set of the full survey questions being proposed, and included 1 question on views towards people who are living with overweight or obesity. This was followed by asking respondents a selection of probes to check whether they were interpreting the questions and associated answer options consistently.

The survey pilot involved asking some of the questions being proposed for the main survey of a sufficient sample to establish whether the questions were understood in the context of the survey; whether respondents raised any issues with any of the questions; and to look at the distribution of answers. The pilot included three questions on attitudes towards alcohol and tobacco use and weight. The pilot sample consisted of 83 respondents out of a sample of 167 selected randomly from ScotCen panel members living in Scotland.[45]


Most of the statistics presented in this report show the percentage of respondents who selected particular answer options. All percentages cited in this report are based on the weighted data and are rounded to the nearest whole number. A percentage may be quoted in the text for a single category that aggregates two or more of the percentages shown in a table. The percentage for the single category may, because of rounding, differ by one percentage point from the sum of the percentages in the table. Differences between figures shown in the tables are calculated using unrounded figures and may differ from the rounded figures shown in the text.

All differences described in the text (between different groups of people or different years) are statistically significant at the 95% level or above, unless otherwise specified. This means that the probability of having found a difference of at least this size, if there was no actual difference in the population, is 5% or less. The term 'significant' is used in this report to refer to statistical significance; this is not intended to imply substantive importance. Further details of significance testing and analysis are included in the accompanying Technical Report and full data tables for each question are available as 'supporting files' to this publication.

This report presents comparative data for one question on harmful alcohol use from SSA 2013, and one on views on who should be responsible for reducing the numbers living with overweight or obesity in Scotland from SSA 2016. Caution is required in making these comparisons due to change in methodology of data capture. In previous years, these views were captured by a self-completion survey on a computer at the end of an interview conducted face-to-face, thus response rates differ. In 2013 there were a relatively high number of non-applicable responses (149) because some did not reach that point of the survey or opted not to answer the self-complete section or certain questions from it. Those who opted not to answer the self-completion section in 2013 were excluded from this report and the annex table in order to compare as closely as possible to 2021. The sampling approach has remained comparable with previous years and the 2021/22 data have been carefully weighted to reduce risk of bias as a result of this. Also to note that the questions were within surveys with a different mix of questions. Data from these earlier questions is also included in the supporting files.

Annex tables provides the full tables for this report cross-tabulated by the background analysis variables[46] as well as the comparative overall figures where available for previous years. These can be referred to alongside the relevant analysis in this report. The annex table numbers do not directly match the tables within the report as the tables provide a full breakdown of each of the questions asked in relation to attitudes on alcohol, tobacco use and weight cross-tabulated by each of the sub-groups.



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