Health Survey (NI) 2016/17

Date published: 24 October 2017

The Department of Health today published the “Health Survey (NI): First Results 2016/17” report and accompanying trend tables.

Health Survey NI 2016-17 Image

The Health Survey (NI) has run annually, on a continuous basis, since 2010/11. The 2016/17 survey included questions relating to general health, mental health and wellbeing, loneliness, social support, obesity, smoking, physical activity, care in the sun, medicines and planning for social care. The sample size for the survey was 3,888 individuals aged 16 and over.

Key Findings

  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) described their health as being good or very good, an increase from the 70% reported the previous year
  • Prevalence of cigarette smoking has fallen to 20%, from the 22% reported in 2015/16. This is the first drop in prevalence since 2013/14 and represents a continuation of the general downward trend seen since the 1980s when a third of respondents smoked. Smoking prevalence in the most deprived areas (32%) continues to be around three times that in the least deprived areas (11%)
  • A small proportion of respondents (6%) reported that they currently use electronic cigarettes, the same proportion as in 2015/16. Over a third of these respondents (37%) are current cigarette smokers while (59%) used to smoke on a regular basis
  • Over a quarter of adults (27%) were classed as obese with a further 36% classed as overweight. Obesity levels have shown an upward trend over the last decade, from the 24% recorded in 2005/06
  • Around three-quarters of children aged 2-15 were classed as either normal weight or underweight, while 17% were classed as overweight and 8% were classed as obese. Over the last decade, the proportion of children classed as overweight or obese has remained at similar levels
  • Over half of respondents (55%) reported meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations on physical activity. This is in keeping with previous health survey findings
  • There was an increase in the proportion of respondents that reported eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, from 37% in 2015/16 to 43% in 2016/17
  • Females continue to be more likely to meet the 5 a day guidelines (47%) than males (37%) however they remain less likely to meet the physical activity recommendations (females 51% and males 61%)
  • Four-fifths of respondents (80%) aged 18 and over drink alcohol, an increase on the 2015/16 finding of 74%
  • One in six respondents (17%) scored highly on the GHQ12 suggesting they may have a possible mental health problem. This is in keeping with previous health survey findings. The proportion of females indicating a possible mental health problem fell from 21% in 2015/16 to 18% in 2016/17. The findings for males remained unchanged at 16%. Respondents in the most deprived areas (27%) were twice as likely to record a high GHQ12 score as those in the least deprived areas (14%)
  • Respondents living in urban areas and those in the most deprived areas were more likely to report signs of loneliness than those in rural areas and the least deprived areas respectively. There was no discernible trend when considering sex or age-group
  • The majority of respondents (83%) correctly identified that antibiotics do not work on colds and flus; a similarly high proportion recognised that they are used to treat bacterial infections (85%) and that if you take an antibiotic when you do not need it then you can become resistant to the antibiotic (85%)
  • Of respondents who had been in contact with the health and social care system in the last year, nearly half had given a compliment to staff or the organisation. The majority of compliments were given verbally with 7% of all those who had been in contact giving a written compliment and/or gift. A small proportion of respondents (3%) reported making a complaint about their care or treatment (1% had made a written complaint)  
  • Following on from this summary report, the Department of Health intends to produce a number of more detailed topic specific bulletins throughout 2017/18. These bulletins will be made available on the Health Survey page on the Departmental website

Notes to editors: 

1. The survey was commissioned by the Department of Health and covered the period April 2016 to March 2017.

2. A random sample of 5,850 addresses across Northern Ireland was selected for interviewing.  The final achieved sample was 3,888 individuals.  The response rate for the survey was 59%.

3. Due to the high level of interest in the survey, topics were split across two questionnaires to accommodate additional questions.

4. Unless otherwise specified, results relate to adults aged 16 and over.

5. The results are based on information that has been weighted by age and sex in order to better reflect the composition of the general population of Northern Ireland.

6. As the results are based on data collected from a sample of the population, they are subject to sampling error. This should be taken into consideration when interpreting the results. Differences reported are those that are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.

7. Measurements of height and weight were sought from individuals aged two and over in participating households.  Data were obtained from 384 children aged 2 to 15 years and 2,729 adults aged 16 and above.

8. Adult obesity levels were estimated using the Body Mass Index. This is a widely used indicator of body fat levels which is calculated from a person’s height and weight. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight (in kilograms) by the square of their height (in metres). In adults, a BMI between 25 and 29.9kg/m2 is considered overweight and a BMI of 30kg/m2 is considered obese.

9. Child obesity levels were classified by comparing BMI by sex and age of the child against the growth curve developed by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF). 

10. The Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2010 (NIMDM) was used as a measure of deprivation.  The NIMDM 2010 is the official measure of spatial deprivation in Northern Ireland.

11. Any material used must be acknowledged and sourced to the Health Survey Northern Ireland, Department of Health. 

12. This publication is available online.

13. Additional information is available from:

Public Health Information and Research Branch
Information Analysis Directorate
Department of Health
Annex 2, Castle Buildings
Belfast BT4 3SQ

Telephone:          028 9052 2340


14. Media enquiries about this press release to DoH Press Office 028 9052 0505, or out of office hours contact to Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

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