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Technical Issues

Scottish Health Survey Technical Issues

When did the continuous Scottish Health Survey begin?

The continuous Scottish Health Survey began in January 2008.

Have there been any other Scottish Health Surveys in the past ?

Yes, there were three previous one-off surveys in 1995, 1998 and 2003.

How long will the continuous Scottish Health Survey run?

The current contract is for fieldwork from 2008-2011. There is no commitment to continue after that as yet.

Can I do time-series analysis?

Yes - it is possible to link variables which remain unchanged through time.

What is the sample size?

The main achieved sample size is expected to be around 6,400 adults and around 2,000 children each year. With the three Health Board boosts, this gives a total of 7,000 adults and 2,000 children in the 2008 sample. Module A will be asked of around 2,500 adults and 1100 children and Module B will be asked of around 2,200 adults (one per sampled household).

What is the survey design?

There is a two-stage interview process to the survey: a personal interview is carried out by a trained interviewer and this is then followed by a nurse visit. The interview covers self assessed health and disability, health service use, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, smoking, drinking, common mental health problems, eating patterns and physical activity, as well as collecting information on a range of indicators of socio-economic position. The nurse asks some further questions, for example on use of prescribed medicines, takes a series of anthropometric and biomedical measurements, including blood pressure, waist and hip circumference and lung function and collects blood, urine and saliva samples.

This is the only national survey which adopts this two-stage approach and the combination of interview based questionnaire with the clinical information collected by the nurse results in potentially powerful source of information. For example, it is possible to look at the link between lifestyle characteristics, health status and physiological function.

Current Survey Design (2008-2011)

The 2008 survey will still have a two stage process - a personal interview followed by a nurse visit - but the nurse visit will only be offered to around one sixth of the sample whereas it was previously offered to the whole sample. The survey now has a core and modular structure with a core set of questions going to the whole sample and two modules of questions which go to a proportion of the sample. Module A contains a range of questions on cardiovascular disease, asthma, eating habits, physical activity, mental health, dental health and accidents. Most of these questions will be asked every second year although some will be asked annually. Module B contains questions on knowledge, attitudes and motivations to health and is a replacement for the Health Education Population Survey (HEPS) which was previously run by NHS Health Scotland.

Click here to access a pictorial representation of the new design structure.

Are there boosts in particular geographical areas?

Health Boards were given the option to boost their samples beyond the level which is being funded centrally at the outset of the survvey. In 2008, three Health Boards have taken this opportunity - Borders, Fife and Grampian. Each has boosted their by an additional 200 adults. Boosted interviews will only comprise core questions, no module questions will be asked.

When will the results be available?

The first national results will be released on September 2009. Thereafter national level results from the core survey will be published annually.

Results at the NHS Board level will not be available for most Boards until 2012. See section entitled 'Can I get results at below national level?' below for more details.

When and where can I get the data and documentation?

The national data will be deposited in the Data Archive in January 2010 and annually thereafter. We will not produce Health Board analysis until we have collected 4 years worth of data (Summer 2012) but datasets will be released each year and Health Boards with larger samples will be able to analyse their own data before this time.

Data and documentation from the previous Scottish Health Surveys (1995; 1998 and 2003) is available now from the Data Archive.

Click here to order Scottish Health Survey (1995) data

Click here to order Scottish Health Survey (1998) data

Click here to order Scottish Health Survey (2003) data

What is the survey content?

Full details of the content of the current Scottish Health Survey, including a summary of what's new, what's been amended and what's been dropped since 2003 are available from here.

Full details of the content of the Knowledge, Attitudes and Motivations to health (KAM) module - a replacement for the Health Education Population Survey (HEPS) - are available from here.

The 2003 questionnaires are available from here.

Previous questionnaires and other survey documentation are also available from The Question Bank (QB).




What did the recent review of this survey recommend?

A comprehensive review of the Scottish Health Survey was carried out during 2005 and 2006 and made a number of recommendations, including:

  • the survey should adopt a core and modular structure
  • the survey should become a continuous survey
  • robust results at Scotland level should be available every year
  • robust results at Health Board level should be available by amalgamating a number of years of data together
  • the sample design should be unclustered (if costs allow)
  • options should be available to boost the sample either for geographical areas or for specific topics

All of the recommendations were adopted.

Interested parties were consulted on content of new 2008 questionnaire during Summer/Autumn 2007. Please see our questionnaire consultation page for the results of this consultation.

What will be in the 2008- 2011 Scottish Health Surveys reports?

We have developed a reporting matrix for Scottish Health Survey 2008 giving you a summary of how results for the different topics will be reported. It is available from here. We regard this as a dynamic document which is not set in stone. If you have any views on it - please let us know.

We intend to produce similar summaries for 2009-2011.

What is your communication and marketing strategy?

A short on-line survey was undertaken in autumn / winter 2008/09 to establish the audience for the SHeS outputs and their differing requirements. Results of this were taken into account while drafting the communication and marketing strategy for the Scottish Health Survey. The final strategy is available from here.

Can I get results at below national level?

The survey has been designed to give representative results for every NHS Board in Scotland after 4 years. The results for all NHS Boards from the core survey will be published in mid 2012 (results aggregated for years 2008/09/10/11). For larger NHS Boards, results might be available earlier.

A summary of when results for different sub-Scotland geographies are available (with associated measures of precision of these results) - is found here. These results are estimates - more precise calculations will be available once analysis of the 2008 data is completed.

What quality control procedures are carried out on the data ?

We undertake data quality checks during each of the core survey stages. Details of the specific procedures carried out during data collection, data entry, data cleaning and documentation of the data are found here.