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Scottish Health Survey provides snapshot of nation’s health and wellbeing

25 September 2018

New data from ScotCen Social Research reveals that the proportion of adults saying they do not drink at all has increased from 11% in 2003 to 17% in 2017 - the highest level in fifteen years.

  • Increase in non-drinkers, but 30% of adults in least deprived areas drink more than recommended guidelines 
  • Steady and significant increase in the proportion of adults who have 2 or more symptoms of depression
  • 8 % of adults in Scotland experience food insecurity, with single parents (21%) and those aged 16-64 who live alone (20%) most likely to do so

New data from ScotCen Social Research reveals that the proportion of adults saying they do not drink at all has increased from 11% in 2003 to 17% in 2017 - the highest level in fifteen years.

However, alcohol consumption varies widely across the population. People in better off parts of the country are more likely to drink over the recommended guidelines; 30% of adults in the least deprived parts of Scotland drink more than the recommended guidelines. In the most deprived parts of the country, this figure is 20%.

Rates of smoking are also on the decline, with 18% of adults smoking in 2017, down from 21% in 2016 and 28% in 2003. This is the lowest rate recorded by the Scottish Health Survey.

Mental health

The proportion of adults reporting 2 or more symptoms of depression has risen steadily from 8% in 2010/11 to 11% in 2016/17. Furthermore, 2017 saw 17% of adults in Scotland showing signs of a possible psychiatric disorder.

Those aged 16 to 24 were the most likely to fall into this category (22%), and those aged over 65 were the least likely (12-13%). Research also found higher rates of self-harm among the young than the old; 21% of 16 to 24 year olds said they’d self-harmed at some point in their lives, compared with less than 0.5% of those aged 75 and over.

Results also show that deprivation plays a role in determining mental health and wellbeing. The survey found the proportion of people displaying two or more depressive symptoms was significantly higher in the most deprived areas of the country (20%), compared with those in the least deprived areas (5%).

Additionally, lower mental wellbeing scores were found to be associated with adults who felt that they had ‘unrealistic time pressures at work’ either ‘always’ or ‘often’. Findings also showed that mental wellbeing was significantly higher among people who reported their colleagues to be supportive, than among those who disagreed.

Food Insecurity

The Scottish Health Survey collected data on food insecurity for the first time in 2017. Our data reveals that 8% of adults in Scotland experienced food insecurity in 2017 (as defined by being worried that they would run out of food due to lack of money or resources), with single parents (21%), and those aged 16-64 who live alone (20%) most likely to do so.

Physical Health

Overall, more adults are eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day than at any time since 2003, the number of adults meeting the recommended level of physical activity is rising, and rates of being overweight or obese have been stable for a decade.

The Scottish Health Survey shows that 65% of adults (71% of men and 60% of women) are meeting the guidelines for Moderate or Vigorous Physical activity. The number of adults eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day remains relatively low (24%), but this does represent the highest figure for over a decade. Similarly, whilst the proportion of adults that are overweight or obese is high (65%, with 33% healthy weight), this figure has been stable since 2008.

Joanne McLean, Research Director of the Scottish Health Survey at ScotCen Social Research said: “Whilst we have seen some small improvements in fruit and veg intake across the Scottish population, this finding is overshadowed by the troubling finding that around 1 in 12 households in Scotland have worried about running out of food due to a lack of money or resources in the previous 12 months. We now know that this food insecurity is most likely amongst single adults under 65 and single parents and least likely amongst the older population; information that should be helpful in the determining of more targeted policies to alleviate food security in Scotland.

Food insecurity is most prevalent in the most deprived areas in Scotland and our data highlights that health inequalities continue in Scotland, key examples being smoking and mental health.

Despite an overall drop in current smoking to 18% in 2017, smoking rates are still 3 times higher in the most deprived areas than the least.

It is also a concern to see a rise in the reporting of mental health problems such as depression, that young people continue to have the worst mental health and that there has been no improvement in the proportion of adults who have attempted suicide. Our findings signal that much is still to be done to turn the tide and improve the mental health and wellbeing of the nation.”

Download the full report from here.