Health Survey Northern Ireland: First Results 2018/19

Date published: 15 January 2020

The Department of Health today published the “Health Survey (NI): First Results 2018/19” report and accompanying trend tables.

Health Survey NI Image

The Health Survey (NI) has run annually, on a continuous basis, since 2010/11. The 2018/19 survey included questions relating to general health, mental health and wellbeing, antibiotics, obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol, and sexual health. The sample size for the survey was 3,593 individuals aged 16 and over.

Key Findings

  • Almost three-quarters of respondents (72%) described their health as being good or very good and the majority (87%) feel they lead a fairly or very healthy life.
  • Two-fifths of respondents reported having a longstanding physical or mental health condition; this increased with age from 15% of those aged 16-24 to 71% of those aged 75 and over.
  • Around one-fifth of respondents (18%) were current cigarette smokers. This is a similar finding compared with 2017/18 though smoking prevalence has fallen from 24% in 2010/11. Smoking prevalence in the most deprived areas (29%) was more than twice that in the least deprived areas (12%).
  • A small proportion of respondents (7%) reported that they currently use electronic cigarettes, no statistically significant change from 2017/18.
  • A quarter of adults (25%) were classed as obese with a further 37% classed as overweight, similar to 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 (67%) or underweight (6%), while 19% were classed as overweight and 8% were classed as obese. Since 2010/11, the proportion of children classed as overweight or obese has remained at similar levels.
  • Over three-quarters of adults aged 18 and over drink alcohol, 83% of males and 76% of females. Almost a fifth of male drinkers (16%) drank on three or more days per week compared with 10% of female drinkers.
  • The proportion of respondents that reported eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day rose to a high of 46% in 2018/19. Respondents in the most deprived areas were less likely to meet the 5 a day guidelines (39%) than those in the least deprived areas (48%).
  • 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 (24%) continue to be more likely to have a high GHQ12 score than those in the least deprived areas (12%).
  • A fifth of respondents 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.
  • Of respondents who had been in contact with the health and social care system in the last year, almost three-fifths (56%) 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. This compares with 5% of respondents that 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 2020. 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 2018 to March 2019.

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 5,448 addresses, 2,866 households took part, giving a response rate of 53%. At each household, everyone aged 16 or over was selected to participate in the survey. A total of 3,593 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. In 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 501 children aged 2 to 15 years and 2,723 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. 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

Telephone:  028 9052 2340


13. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office on 02890520579 or email . For our of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110. 

14. Follow us on @healthdpt


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