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Health Survey (NI) 2016/17


Department of Health (NI)

Subject Keywords: Smoking, Overweight, Child Health, Physical Activity, Eating Habits, Healthy Eating, Fruit and vegetables
Topic: Obesity
Chronic Conditions
Chronic Conditions
Type: Report
Region: Northern Ireland

The Department of Health today (24 October 2017) published the “Health Survey (NI): First Results 2016/17” report and accompanying trend tables.


Health Survey NI 2016-17 Image

The Health Survey (NI) has run annually, on a continuous basis, since 2010/11. The 2016/17 survey included questions relating to general health, mental health and wellbeing, loneliness, social support, obesity, smoking, physical activity, care in the sun, medicines and planning for social care. The sample size for the survey was 3,888 individuals aged 16 and over.

Key Findings

  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) described their health as being good or very good, an increase from the 70% reported the previous year
  • Prevalence of cigarette smoking has fallen to 20%, from the 22% reported in 2015/16. This is the first drop in prevalence since 2013/14 and represents a continuation of the general downward trend seen since the 1980s when a third of respondents smoked. Smoking prevalence in the most deprived areas (32%) continues to be around three times that in the least deprived areas (11%)
  • A small proportion of respondents (6%) reported that they currently use electronic cigarettes, the same proportion as in 2015/16. Over a third of these respondents (37%) are current cigarette smokers while (59%) used to smoke on a regular basis
  • Over a quarter of adults (27%) were classed as obese with a further 36% classed as overweight. Obesity levels have shown an upward trend over the last decade, from the 24% recorded in 2005/06
  • Around three-quarters of children aged 2-15 were classed as either normal weight or underweight, while 17% were classed as overweight and 8% were classed as obese. Over the last decade, the proportion of children classed as overweight or obese has remained at similar levels
  • Over half of respondents (55%) reported meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations on physical activity. This is in keeping with previous health survey findings
  • There was an increase in the proportion of respondents that reported eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, from 37% in 2015/16 to 43% in 2016/17
  • Females continue to be more likely to meet the 5 a day guidelines (47%) than males (37%) however they remain less likely to meet the physical activity recommendations (females 51% and males 61%)
  • Four-fifths of respondents (80%) aged 18 and over drink alcohol, an increase on the 2015/16 finding of 74%
  • One in six respondents (17%) scored highly on the GHQ12 suggesting they may have a possible mental health problem. This is in keeping with previous health survey findings. The proportion of females indicating a possible mental health problem fell from 21% in 2015/16 to 18% in 2016/17. The findings for males remained unchanged at 16%. Respondents in the most deprived areas (27%) were twice as likely to record a high GHQ12 score as those in the least deprived areas (14%)
  • Respondents living in urban areas and those in the most deprived areas were more likely to report signs of loneliness than those in rural areas and the least deprived areas respectively. There was no discernible trend when considering sex or age-group
  • The majority of respondents (83%) correctly identified that antibiotics do not work on colds and flus; a similarly high proportion recognised that they are used to treat bacterial infections (85%) and that if you take an antibiotic when you do not need it then you can become resistant to the antibiotic (85%)
  • Of respondents who had been in contact with the health and social care system in the last year, nearly half had given a compliment to staff or the organisation. The majority of compliments were given verbally with 7% of all those who had been in contact giving a written compliment and/or gift. A small proportion of respondents (3%) reported making a complaint about their care or treatment (1% had made a written complaint)  
  • Following on from this summary report, the Department of Health intends to produce a number of more detailed topic specific bulletins throughout 2017/18. These bulletins will be made available on the Health Survey page on the Departmental website





Rights: © Public
Suggested citation:

Department of Health (NI). (2017) Health Survey (NI) 2016/17 [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 21st September 2019].


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Department of Health (Northern Ireland)
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