Health Survey (NI) 2017/18

Date published: 20 November 2018

The Department of Health today published the “Health Survey (NI): First Results 2017/18” report and accompanying trend tables.

Health Survey Northern Ireland: First Results

The Health Survey (NI) has run annually, on a continuous basis, since 2010/11. The 2017/18 survey included questions relating to general health, mental health and wellbeing, obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol, breastfeeding and diet. The sample size for the survey was 3,355 individuals aged 16 and over.

Key Findings

  • Over two-thirds of respondents (70%) described their health as being good or very good and the majority (86%) feel they lead a fairly or very healthy life.
  • There has been a gradual increase in respondents reporting a limiting longstanding illness over recent years, from 27% in 2010/11 to 32% in 2017/18.
  • Around one-fifth of respondents (18%) were current cigarette smokers. This is not a statistically significant change from the 20% reported in 2016/17 though smoking prevalence has fallen from 24% in 2010/11. Smoking prevalence in the most deprived areas (30%) continues to be around three times that in the least deprived areas (11%).
  • A small proportion of respondents (8%) reported that they currently use electronic cigarettes, an increase from 6% in 2016/17. Around two-fifths of these respondents (40%) are current cigarette smokers while (56%) used to smoke on a regular basis.
  • Over a quarter of adults (27%) were classed as obese with a further 37% classed as overweight. Obesity levels have shown an upward trend from the 23% recorded in 2010/11. Whilst obesity levels were similar, males were more likely than females to be overweight.
  • Around three-quarters of children aged 2-15 were classed as either normal weight or underweight, while 18% were classed as overweight and 9% were classed as obese. Since 2010/11, the proportion of children classed as overweight or obese has remained at similar levels.
  • Around three-quarters of respondents aged 18 and over drink alcohol, 81% of males and 75% of females. A fifth (18%) drink above recommended weekly limits, with males (31%) around three times more likely to do so than females (9%). The proportion of respondents drinking above recommended weekly limits has fallen from 24% in 2010/11.
  • The proportion of respondents that reported eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day fell from a high of 43% in 2016/17 to 38% in 2017/18. Females continue to be more likely to meet the 5 a day guidelines (42%) than males (32%).
  • Around a fifth of respondents (18%) scored highly on the GHQ12 suggesting they may have a possible mental health problem. Respondents in the most deprived areas (22%) continue to be more likely to record a high GHQ12 score than those in the least deprived areas (15%).
  • Females (21%) showed more signs of loneliness than males (18%) and 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. Younger people (aged 16-34) showed more signs of loneliness (21%) than people aged 65 and over (14%).
  • Of respondents who had been in contact with the health and social care system in the last year, three-fifths (57%) had given a compliment to staff or the organisation. The majority of compliments were given verbally with 6% of all those who had been in contact giving a written compliment and/or gift. A small proportion of respondents (4%) 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 more detailed topic specific bulletins and tables throughout 2018/19 and 2019/20. These 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 2017 to March 2018.
  2. The sample for the survey consisted of a systematic random sample of addresses from the Pointer database of private addresses. A total of 5,850 addresses were selected for interview. From an eligible sample of 5,157 addresses, 2,675 households took part, giving a response rate of 52%. At each household, everyone aged 16 or over was selected to participate in the survey. A total of 3,355 interviews were achieved.
  3. Unless otherwise specified, results relate to adults aged 16 and over.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Measurements of height and weight were sought from individuals aged two and over in participating households.  Data were obtained from 392 children aged 2 to 15 years and 2,315 adults aged 16 and above.
  7. 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.
  8. 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). 
  9. 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.
  10. Any material used must be acknowledged and sourced to the Health Survey Northern Ireland, Department of Health. 
  11. This publication is available online.
  12. 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

  13. For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office team on 028 9052 0575 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned.
  14. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt 


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