Health and health behaviour

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A wealth of data on health and health-related behaviour

Key data

Whilst there is a wealth of data on health and health-related behaviour, a number of studies are regarded as 'key' – either through their subject/geographical coverage, their use of standard measures, their longevity, their usage among the research community or because they are used to create 'official' figures.

The majority of the data described are known as 'raw', 'primary' or 'source' data in the sense that they represent information that has been collected 'first-hand'; they are original data sources which may then be used for 'secondary' analysis by researchers not involved in the data collection process. The majority of these data are anonymised because they describe the attitudes, behaviour, circumstances and personal details of the individuals being studied. These types of data are heavily used by the academic and government research communities.

The UK Data Service provides access to the following primary data sources:

Study name Coverage Topics
1946 birth cohort study: National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) 1946- continuing (longitudinal)
Britain
child development
initial conditions
morbidity
life outcomes
ageing
1958, 1970, 2000-1 birth cohort studies:
National Child Development Study (NCDS)
1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70)
Millennium Cohort Study (MCS)
1958- continuing; 1970- continuing; 2000-1- continuing (all longitudinal)
Britain/UK
child development
initial conditions
morbidity
life outcomes
ageing
Adult Dental Health Survey (ADHS) 1988- continuing (repeated cross-section)
UK
dental health
health services
Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) 1991- continuing (longitudinal)
Avon
child development
initial conditions
morbidity
biological markers
Census, including ONS Longitudinal Study and Scottish Longitudinal Study 1971- continuing (longitudinal)
UK
general health
limiting long-term illness
carers
Census aggregate data 1991, 2001, 2011: England, Wales, and Scotland
Data available at many geographical levels (e.g. county, district, ward, output area). Availability of topics and categories vary by census, country and geographical level
limiting long term illness
general health
provision of care
communal establishments (e.g. hospitals)
Census microdata 1991, 2001 and 2011
UK
limiting long term illness
number of carers
English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) 1998- continuing (longitudinal)
England
morbidity
cognitive function
psychosocial health
European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) 2003- continuing (repeated cross-section)
Europe
general health
chronic conditions
mental health
limiting conditions
access to doctor
European Social Survey (ESS) 2002- continuing (repeated cross-section)
Europe
subjective well-being
access to primary/acute/elective care
attitudes towards medicine
Eurostat New Cronos 1960- continuing country and regional level data
25 European Union countries, plus some coverage of others, including Japan, United States
public health indicators
health and safety
health care
self-perceived health
disabilities, illness
smoking, alcohol consumption
causes of death
General Lifestyle Survey (previously known as General Household Survey) 1971-2011 (repeated cross-section)
Britain
general health
smoking
drinking
Health Education Population Survey (HEPS) 1996- continuing (repeated cross-section)
Scotland
health beliefs
health knowledge
health attitudes
health behaviour
general health
mental health
social capital
Health and Lifestyle Survey (HALS) 1984-85- continuing (longitudinal)
Britain
physiological measures
health beliefs
diet
physical activity
causes of death
cancer
Health Surveys:
Health Survey for England (HSE)
Welsh Health Survey (WHS)
Scottish Health Survey (SHeS)
Northern Ireland Health Survey (previously the Northern Ireland Health and Social Wellbeing Survey)
1991- continuing (repeated cross-section) physiological measures
service use
cardiovascular disease
physical
Healthcare Commission patient surveys 2003-04- continuing (repeated cross-section)
England
service use
patient satisfaction
patient experience
IMF Government Finance Statistics 1970- continuing country level data
140+ countries
Global data on government expenditure on health
Infant Feeding Survey 1985- continuing (repeated cross-section)
UK
child nutrition
ante/post-natal care
service use
Life Opportunities Survey 2009-2014 longitudinal
Britain
impairments and health conditions
disability
experiences of disabled people over time
Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) (previously known as Expenditure and Food Survey) – replacing National Food Survey (NFS) 2001-02- continuing; 1974-2000 (repeated cross-section)
Britain
diet
nutrition
consumption
expenditure
Mothers and Daughters: Accounts of Health in the Grandmother Generation, 1945-1978 1945-1978 (retrospective histories, qualitative study)
Scotland
child care
elderly
family life
gender roles
National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) 1992/93- continuing (repeated cross-section)
Britain
diet
nutrition
dental health
general health
National Health Service National Staff Survey 2003- continuing (repeated cross-section)
England
working conditions
training/development
management
errors/incidents

OECD Health Statistics

1980- continuing country level data
Multi-nation
health
mortality
hospitals
health care
diseases

OECD Social and Welfare Statistics

1980- continuing country level data
30 countries
social expenditure
health
family
old age
disability
Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (formerly ONS Opinions or Omnibus Survey) 1990- continuing (repeated cross-section)
Britain
multi-purpose survey
(including modules on
health/health behaviour)
OPCS/ONS Surveys of Psychiatric Morbidity 1993- continuing (repeated cross-section)
Britain
general health
service use
neurosis
psychosis
substance use
Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People 1988- continuing (repeated cross-section)
England
smoking
drinking
drug use
Severalls Hospital: Interviews for 'Madness in its Place', 1913-1997 1913-1997 (retrospective histories, qualitative study)
Colchester, Essex
hospital
mental health
nurses
patients
history of nursing
Survey of Carers in Households 2009-2010
England
carers in households (non-professional)
health services
UK Time Use Survey (TUS) 2000 (cross-section)
UK
lifestyle
time use
health-related behaviour
Understanding Society 2008- continuing (longitudinal)
Great Britain
general health
disability and caring
depression
sleep behaviour
Vital Statistics for England and Wales 1981-2006 (aggregate reports)
England and Wales
births
deaths
causes of death
infant mortality
Whitehall II 1985- continuing (longitudinal)
London
ageing
morbidity
psychosocial health
World Bank Development Indicators 1960- continuing
country level data
Over 200 countries
birth/death rates
fertility
health expenditure
immunisation
life expectancy
hospital beds
HIV, TB, malaria

Other research communities are less interested in these primary, and predominantly individual-level, data and are more likely to be consumers of information that has been published at the aggregate-level (e.g. tables of data where results are aggregated to health authority level, or region or country). Whilst the UK Data Service holds some aggregate-level data of interest to health researchers – the Vital Statistics data, for example, and the cross-national Eurostat, United Nations and World Bank databases – we are only one of many online resources that provide access to published data based on the health theme.

Other key data publishers

National Centre for Social Research (NatCen)


UK Statistics Authority


Department of Health


NHS England


Association of Public Health Observatories (APHO)


The Health and Social Care Information Centre


Inter-Governmental Organisations

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