Health Survey (NI): First Results 2019/20

Date published: 17 December 2020

The Department of Health today published the “Health Survey (NI): First Results 2019/20” report and accompanying trend tables.

Health Survey 19-20

The Health Survey (NI) has run annually, on a continuous basis, since 2010/11. The 2019/20 survey included questions relating to general health, mental health and wellbeing, loneliness, smoking, e-cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and obesity. The sample size for the survey was 4,085 individuals aged 16 and over.

Key Findings

  • Almost three-quarters of respondents (71%) described their health as being good or very good; self-assessed general health has remained at a relatively similar level over the last ten years.
  • Under a third (30%) of respondents reported having a long-standing physical or mental health condition that reduces their ability to carry out day-to-day activities; 28% of males and 33% of females.
  • Less than one-fifth of respondents (17%) were current cigarette smokers. This is a similar finding compared with 2018/19 though smoking prevalence has fallen from 24% in 2010/11. Respondents living in the most deprived areas (27%) were more likely to smoke cigarettes than those in the least deprived areas (10%).
  • A small proportion of respondents (6%) reported that they currently use electronic cigarettes, a similar finding to the previous year (7% in 2018/19).
  • Over a quarter of adults (27%) were classed as obese with a further 38% classed as overweight; this is an increase in the obesity rate from the 2010/11 finding of 23%. 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 (69%) or underweight (5%), while 20% were classed as overweight and 6% were classed as obese. Since 2010/11, the proportion of children classed as overweight or obese has remained at relatively similar levels.
  • Around three-quarters of adults aged 18 and over drink alcohol, 80% of males and 73% of females. Under a fifth (17%) drink above recommended weekly limits, with males (26%) around three times as likely to do so as females (9%). A fifth of male drinkers (19%) drank on three or more days per week compared with 10% of female drinkers.
  • Under half of respondents (44%) reported eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day; an increase from the 2010/11 finding of 32%.  Females continue to be more likely to meet the 5 a day guidelines (50%) than males (38%).
  • Around a fifth of respondents (19%) scored highly on the GHQ12 suggesting they may have a possible mental health problem; this is a similar finding to that recorded in 2010/11 (20%). Respondents in the most deprived areas (27%) continue to be more likely to have a high GHQ12 score than those in the least deprived areas (17%).
  • A fifth of respondents (21%) exhibited signs of loneliness by scoring highly on the UCLA loneliness scale. Respondents living in urban areas and those in the most deprived areas were more likely to exhibit signs of loneliness than those in rural areas and the least deprived areas respectively.

Following on from this summary report, the Department of Health intends to produce more detailed topic specific bulletins and tables throughout 2021. 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 2019 to March 2020.
  2. The sample for the survey consisted of a systematic random sample of addresses from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) Address Register (NAR). The NAR is developed within NISRA and is primarily based on the Land & Property Services (LPS) POINTER database. A total of 6,240 addresses were selected for interview. From an eligible sample of 5,364 addresses, 3,171 households took part, giving a response rate of 59%. At each household, everyone aged 16 or over was selected to participate in the survey. A total of 4,085 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-group and sex in order to better reflect the composition of the general population of Northern Ireland. From 2018/19, as part of an ongoing methodological review, a revised weighting methodology has been adopted. For comparison purposes we have updated our previous time series and any reference to trends or changes over time has taken account of the revised methodology.
  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 663 children aged 2 to 15 years and 3,120 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 2017 (NIMDM) was used as a measure of deprivation.  The NIMDM 2017 is the official measure of deprivation in Northern Ireland.
  10. This publication is available on the Department's website.
  11. 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
  12. or media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email:
  13. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt.
  14. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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