Today we have relaunched the summary website for the Health Survey for England, updated to include the most recent data from the 2016 survey. We’ve also updated our online trend data tool, which includes the latest Health Survey data and covers nearly a quarter of a century of this important study, going back to 1993.
Looking at the data, one thing is clear: the nation’s health has changed in some interesting ways since the early 1990s.
The increase in the proportion of people who are overweight and obese is well known – in 2016, 61% of adults in England were overweight or obese, compared with 53% back in 1993. However most of this increase took place before 2000, and levels have not changed much in recent years.
The nation’s waists have also been growing, and in 2016 40% of adults had a ‘very high’ waist circumference (defined as bigger than 88cm for women, bigger than 102cm for men), up from 23% in 1993. Central (abdominal) obesity increases the health risk from being overweight.
Perhaps the biggest change in health and lifestyles that we have measured in the Health Survey for England has been the decrease in the proportion of adults who smoke, which stood at 29% in 1996, and has since fallen to 18% in 2016.
At the same time, the proportion of adults who have drunk alcohol in the past week has also decreased, down from 67% in 1998 to 58% in 2016.
Interestingly, despite all these changes, the proportion of adults who rate their own health as good or very good has been very similar over time, and stood at 75% in 2016.
These and other trends can be explored in the online tool, which includes charts for adults and children, with breakdowns for different age groups and for men and women/boys and girls. The charts also flag when major health policies or legislation came into effect, to provide context.
We hope the website and the online tool make viewing the facts about our health and lifestyles, and how they are changing, more accessible to more people.