Taking the pulse


The Scottish Health Survey attempts to measure the wellbeing of people living in Scotland. What does it reveal about the nation’s health?


Men are more likely to drink too much

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The 2016 survey shows that 26% of adults drink more than the recommended maximum of 14 units of alcohol per week.

This is well down on the figure (34%) from 2003 but similar to levels in recent years.

The survey said men were twice as likely to drink above the limit as women (35% to 17%).

On average, it said men drank 16.9 units and women 8.8.

It also said people in the least deprived areas drank on more days (2.9) than those in the most deprived areas (2.3 days).

The percentage of adults reporting that they do not drink alcohol remained steady at 16%.


One in five Scots still smoke

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The prevalence of smoking among adults in 2016 was 21%, according to the survey,

That figure has remained steady for about four years but is well down from 2003 (28%).

The survey for last year said 24% of adults were ex-smokers and 55% reported they had never smoked.

The mean average for the number cigarettes smoked per day was higher for male smokers (13.7) than for female smokers (11.7)

Smoking prevalence was highest among adults aged 25-54.

Levels of e-cigarette usage remained steady at 7%.


Men more likely to exercise

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In 2016, almost two-thirds (64%) of adults met the guidelines for moderate or vigorous physical activity (MVPA).

For men the figure was 69% and for women it was 59%.

The levels of physical activity for adults decreased with age – for 16-24 it was 75% and for those 75 and over it was 30%.

There were variations in the most popular activities reported between the sexes.

Men were more likely to have participated in running, cycling, football/rugby and golf.

Whereas women said they had been involved in swimming, yoga/pilates and aerobics/keep fit/gymnastics/dance.

Participation in most activities declined with age, with the exception of bowls, fishing/angling and golf.

For children, the proportion meeting physical activity guidelines was higher for boys (79%) than girls (72%).


Scots are only eating 3-a-day

Despite World Health Organisation guidelines recommending five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, most Scots are falling well below the target.

The survey showed that the average adult managed just three portions, down from 3.3 in 2015.

It said a gap had opened up between women (3.2 portions) and men (2.8).

The 2016 survey said 17% of men met the 5-a-day guidelines and 22% of women.

It said 14% of men and 9% of women had reported eating no fruit or vegetables on the previous day.

For adults the lowest consumption was among those aged 16-24 (2.5 portions) and highest among those aged 55-64 (3.3 portions).

Only 13% of children met the 5-a-day recommendations – with girls on 15% and boys on 11%.

For other foods, the survey showed that the number of people eating oily fish once a week or more was up to 32%.

It also showed that 57% of adults ate red meat and 31% consumed chips more than twice a week.

Consumption of non-diet soft drinks at least once a day was down to 20% in 2016.


Men still more likely to overweight

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The survey showed men were significantly more likely than women to be overweight including obese (68% compared with 61%).

It said adults aged 65-74 were most likely to be obese (36%).

Obesity was lowest in the 16 to 24 age group (14%) but it doubled to 28% in the 25-35 range. The largest jump between age groups.

The average BMI (Body Mass Index) for both Scottish men and women was 27.7, up from 27.0 in 2003.

A BMI of 25 or less is said to be normal and 25 to 30 is overweight.

The survey said 70% of children (aged 2-15) were of healthy weight in 2016.

The proportion of children at risk of being overweight (29%) is similar to previous years.

There has been a significant decline in the prevalence of the risk of obesity in children between 2014 (17%) and 2016 (14%), representing a return to the lowest recorded rate of 14% in 1998.


Mental health wellbeing remains stable

According to the Scottish Health Survey, the average levels of wellbeing for adults, as measured by the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), have remained stable since 2008.

The highest mean WEMWEBS score was for those aged 65-74 (50.8) and the lowest for those aged 45-54 (49.0).


One in 20 has diabetes

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Among adults aged 16 and over, 15% had some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 5% had diabetes.

Older people were more likely to have some form of CVD or diabetes than young people (47% of those aged 75 and over compared with 5% of those aged 16-24).


The annual Scottish Health Survey questioned 4,323 adults and 1,561 children.

It is designed to give a representative sample of the general population.



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