THE ANNUAL SCOTTISH HEALTH SURVEY has been published by the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen) and the Scottish Government, providing a detailed picture of the health of the Scottish population.

The latest survey was conducted in 2021 and covers topics including mental wellbeing, long Covid, diet and food insecurity, obesity, physical activity, smoking, alcohol, drugs and gambling.

Wellbeing in Scotland has declined since the pandemic, with women worse affected

  • Average levels of mental wellbeing were significantly lower in Scotland in 2021 than in 2019, following a decade in which levels had remained fairly constant.
  • Average wellbeing for adults, measured using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), was 48.6, the lowest level recorded on the survey since it began tracking wellbeing in 2008.
  • Wellbeing scores fell more sharply for women than for men between 2019 and 2021 and wellbeing scores were lower in the most deprived areas and higher in the least deprived areas.
  • The number of adults with a possible psychiatric disorder increased significantly from 17 per cent in 2019 to 22 per cent in 2021. This is also a significant increase on the proportion recorded in previous years, which ranged from 14 per cent to 19 per cent.
  • Self-reported depression and anxiety among adults in 2021 remained at similar levels to before the pandemic, having reached their highest levels in ten years in 2018/19.
  • Depression, anxiety, ever attempted suicide and ever self-harmed were higher among younger age groups (16-44) than older (65+).

Rise in online gambling in Scotland over the past decade

  • The proportion of adults in Scotland who participated in online gambling has doubled from seven per cent in 2012 to 14 per cent in 2021.
  • Overall gambling participation including the National Lottery has declined from 70 per cent in 2012 to 58 per cent in 2021 – largely due to a decline in participation in the National Lottery, from 58 per cent in 2012 to 41 per cent in 2021.
  • Women who reported having gambled had lower mental wellbeing (47.3), measured using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), than men who did so (48.6).

Food insecurity more common among younger adults and single parents in Scotland

  • In 2021, before the current rising cost of living, younger adults were more likely than older adults to be worried that they would run out of food. Around one in seven (14 per cent) of 16-44 year olds had worried they would run out of food, compared with eight per cent of 45-64 year olds and one per cent of those 65+.
  • In 2019/2021 combined, the highest levels of food insecurity were among single parents and single adults under the age of 65.
  • 34 per cent of single parents were worried that they might run out of food because of a lack of resources at some point in the previous 12 months; 23 per cent had eaten less than they otherwise would and 12 per cent had run out of food.
  • 19 per cent of single adults were worried that they might run out of food, 15 per cent had eaten less than they otherwise would and 10 per cent had run out of food.

Number of current smokers in Scotland reaches record low

  • Around one in ten (11 per cent) adults in Scotland reported being current smokers in 2021, reflecting a long-term decline in smoking since 2003 (28 per cent).
  • The decline in smoking was similar among women and men, with 11 per cent of women and 12 per cent of men saying they were current smokers In 2021, compared with 28 per cent and 29 per cent respectively in 2003.
  • The proportion of people saying they currently use an e-cigarette also declined slightly to five per cent after staying constant at seven per cent each year between 2015 and 2019.

Victoria Wilson, Research Director at the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen), said: “This important annual survey makes a major contribution to understanding and monitoring the health of people in Scotland. This year the survey reveals worsening wellbeing in the wake of the pandemic. It also highlights the extent to which certain groups in society – especially single parents and younger, single adults – were facing food insecurity even before the current rising cost of living.

“In terms of longer trends, this year’s survey highlights how online gambling has gradually become more prevalent in Scotland over the past decade, while smoking has continued to become less common, reaching its lowest level on record.”

* The 2021 Scottish Health Survey main report and data tables can be accessed here.

* Source: ScotCen