Health Survey (Northern Ireland): First Results 2021/22

Date published: 16 November 2022

The Department of Health today published the “Health Survey (Northern Ireland): First Results 2021/22” report and accompanying trend tables.

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The Health Survey (Northern Ireland) has run annually, on a continuous basis, since 2010/11. The 2021/22 survey included questions relating to general health, mental health and wellbeing, smoking and drinking alcohol. The sample size for the survey was 3,154 individuals aged 16 and over.

Impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on data collection

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, data collection for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 Health Survey Northern Ireland moved from face-to-face interviewing to telephone mode. This change may have altered how people responded to the survey.

The achieved 2021/22 response rate on the survey in telephone mode was 47% and this is a slightly lower response compared with the normal achieved response rate of 55% in face-to-face mode.  This has reduced the number of cases at the household and individual levels. The precision of the survey estimates in the 2021/22 year is also reduced compared with previous findings (to note, the achieved response rate in 2020/21 was 18%).

The demographic profile of the achieved sample has changed in comparison with previous years with more of an under-representation of people aged 16-44. The 2021/22 results are based on information that has been weighted by sex and age and whilst the weighting should reduce bias in the results, they cannot eliminate all forms of bias which may be present in the data. (To note, the 2020/21 health survey weight was based on sex, age and Multiple Deprivation Measure (MDM) as the sample had fewer households from the most deprived areas and more households from the least deprived areas in comparison with previous years. The weights for previous years were based on sex and age.)

Any changes within the 2021/22 data compared with previous years have to be considered in the context of all of the above. Caution should be taken in reaching any conclusions based on 2020/21 and 2021/22 data and comparisons with previous years as the findings may not be directly comparable with previous years.

Please note that this report is based on findings for 2021/22 and as such, individual responses to some behavioural, attitudinal and health related questions may also be impacted to a degree by which Government restrictions were in place for the pandemic at the time the interviews took place. As interviews were carried out across the period April 2021 to March 2022, the figures in the report can be regarded as a representative average across the whole year.

Further details on these changes can be found in a document published alongside this bulletin, titled ‘Health Survey Northern Ireland 2021/22 - Things users need to know’.

Key Findings

  • Almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) rated their general health as very good or good; very good or good self-assessed general health declined with age from 88% of 16-34 year olds to 53% of those aged 75+.
  • Almost a third (30%) of respondents reported having a longstanding physical or mental health condition that reduces their ability to carry out day-to-day activities; this proportion has remained at a relatively similar level since 2014/15.
  • Around a fifth (21%) of respondents had a high GHQ12 score, which could indicate a mental health problem. This was significantly lower than the 27% found in 2020/21 and is similar to the pre-pandemic level of 19% in 2019/20. Males (16%) were less likely than females (25%) to have a high GHQ12 score, and whilst the proportion of males scoring highly has returned to pre-pandemic level, the proportion of females scoring highly remains higher. Respondents in the most deprived areas (30%) continue to be more likely to have a high GHQ12 score than those in the least deprived areas (20%).
  • More than a third (35%) of respondents reported having concerns about their own mental health in the past year (15% definitely; 20% to some extent).  This was similar to the findings in 2020/21 (38% overall: 17% definitely & 21% to some extent).
  • Less than a fifth of respondents (18%) 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.
  • Less than one-fifth of respondents (17%) were current cigarette smokers; this is an increase compared with the 2020/21 finding of 12%, however it is similar to the 2019/20 rate.  Smoking prevalence has decreased from 24% in 2010/11. More than a quarter (29%) of those living in the most deprived areas smoke (down from 40% in 2010/11) compared with 10% of those living in the least deprived areas (down from 14% in 2010/11).
  • A small proportion of respondents (7%) reported that they currently use electronic cigarettes or vaping devices (up from 5% in 2020/21 but similar to 2019/20 – 6%).  Use decreased with age, ranging from 12% of those aged 16-24 to 1% of those aged 75 and over.  There was no difference in use between males and females or between those living in the most and least deprived areas.
  • Four-fifths (79%) of adults aged 18 and over reported that they drank alcohol.  This was lower than in 2020/21 (81%), but similar to 2019/20 (77%). Male drinkers (22%) were twice as likely as female drinkers (11%) to report drinking on three or more days per week.
  • More than two-fifths (44%) of respondents reported that they consumed 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day.  This was unchanged from 2019/20. Females (48%) remained more likely than males (39%) to consume 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Similarly respondents living in the least deprived areas (46%) remained more likely to consume at least 5-a-day than those living in the most deprived areas (35%).
  • Of respondents who had been in contact with the health and social care system in the last year, 73% were either very satisfied or satisfied with their experience (down from 85% in 2020/21), while almost a fifth (18%) were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied (double that in 2020/21 – 9%).

This publication is a summary of the main topics included in the 2021/22 Health Survey. Further bulletins and tables 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 2021 to March 2022.
  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 5,709 addresses, 2,702 households took part, giving a response rate of 47%. At each household, everyone aged 16 or over was selected to participate in the survey. A total of 3,154 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 sex and age in order to better reflect the composition of the general population of Northern Ireland. Whilst this weighting should reduce bias in the results, it cannot eliminate all forms of bias which may be present in the data.
  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. 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.
  7. Any material used must be acknowledged and sourced to the Health Survey Northern Ireland, Department of Health. 
  8. This publication is available online.
  9. 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 2523
  10. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by e-mail
  11. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt
  12. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for Media Enquiries Only 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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