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About Scottish Social Attitudes

Scottish Health Survey 2021

The Scottish Health Survey is an annual survey of around 7,000 people in Scotland. It is carried out for the Scottish Government by ScotCen Social Research supported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, the University of Aberdeen, University of Edinburgh and the University of Cambridge.

Why take part?

The benefits from the survey will be indirect and in due course; they will come from any improvements in health and in health services in Scotland which result from the survey.

By taking part, you are helping to provide a better understanding of the health and lifestyles of people in Scotland during these challenging times. The information you provide will also help with planning and improving health services beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you take part, you will also receive a high street voucher as a thank you.

What will taking part involve?

If you choose to take part, you will receive a survey pack and an experienced interviewer from ScotCen Social Research will call you at a time that is convenient for you. The interviewer will check that you are still happy to take part and then complete the questionnaire with you on the phone, it should take around 45 minutes. We can interview every adult (aged 16 and over) who lives in your household and if there are any children aged 0-15, we can interview two of them. Parents or guardians will answer questions on behalf of children aged under 13.

There will be questions about your general health and wellbeing, eating habits, physical activity, smoking and drinking. There are some questions about diseases of the heart, lungs and chest, and questions to help understand the impact of COVID-19 and the associated restrictions on you and your health.

The survey also asks you to provide estimates of your height and weight, but only if you are happy to do so. Some personal details such as age, sex and employment are also included to help us interpret the information. If you do not wish to answer any of the questions, then you do not have to.

Why have I been selected to take part?

We chose your address at random from the Postcode Address File. This file is held by the Post Office and is available to the public. Your address is one of 57,000 addresses which has been contacted this time.

What will happen to any information I give?

Your answers are treated with care and with full respect for your privacy. The Scottish Government and ScotCen guarantee that the survey results will not be published in a form that can reveal your identity and that they will make no attempt to identify you from your answers. The information collected is used for statistical and research purposes only and will be dealt with in accordance with data protection legislation. The information collected in the survey (but no information that would allow you to be identified) is made available via the UK Data Service for use by researchers and academics.  

The study has been looked at by an independent group of people called a Research Ethics Committee, to protect your safety, rights, wellbeing and dignity. This study has been given a favourable opinion by Wales REC 3 on behalf of the NHS. The Public Benefit and Privacy Panel will be reviewing the process for linkage of the survey data with information from the NHS health records.

If you take part in the survey, and agree, some information will be linked to your survey answers from your NHS health records on the following:

  • Visits to hospital and length of stay.
  • Information about diagnosis, treatments and hospital stays for cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and psychiatric episodes.
  • Details about registration with a general practitioner and, if you pass away, the date and cause of death.
  • COVID-19 positive test results (subject to Public Benefit and Privacy Panel approval)

This increases the value of the information you provide and is done in such a way that no data which can identify you or any other individual is released. If you wish your survey results not to be linked to your health records, please tell the interviewer when you take part.

For further information on how the information you provide will be used, please see the privacy information on the Scottish Government’s website:

Contact us

If you wish to ask any questions or seek further information, please do not hesitate to call free on 0800 652 2704. Alternatively, you can email or visit