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A number of important health inequalities are highlighted in the ...
A number of important health inequalities are highlighted in the

Health Survey for England 1996 published today.

Kenneth Calman, chief medical officer, said:

'This survey gives encouraging news in a number of areas but also

highlights inequalities in health in England, one of the key themes

of the government. The survey will be a major tool in the

development and monitoring of the new public health Green Paper to be

launched shortly, and will help to develop policies to enable people

to live longer and healthier lives.

'The report provides information on the prevalence of specific health

conditions. In 1996 these included asthma and accidents as well as

topics that have previously been used to monitor health strategy

targets on blood pressure and obesity. New topics in the 1996 survey

were special measures of general health and, for the first time in

the Health Survey, an analysis of the data by area characteristics to

show inequalities.'

The findings include:

- 76% of adults assessed their own health as 'good' or 'very good'

- the average blood pressure of adults fell between 1991 and

1996. Women in manual social classes had a higher average blood pressure than those in social class I

- 16% of men and 17% of women aged 16-64 were classified as obese compared to 13% of men and 15% of women in 1991. The likelihood of obesity was higher in manual than in non-manual social classes for both men and women

- 23% of boys, 18% of girls and 12% of all adults at some time in the past had been diagnosed as suffering from asthma

- the annual major accident rate for men was 21 per 100 and 31 per 100 for boys. A strong relationship was shown between accident rates and age. The highest major accident rate was for boys aged 14 - 15

- the major accident rates for women and girls were significantly lower at 15 and 22 per 100 respectively

- 3 in 10 men reported drinking over 21 units per week; 15% of women reported drinking over 14 units per week. Alcohol consumption amongst women was highest in social classes I and II

- the proportion of women smoking had not changed significantly between 1993 and 1996, but among men there was an increase from 28% to 30%

- in particular, the percentage of young men in the 16-34 age group smoking increased from 33% in 1993 to 39% in 1996


1. The 1996 Health Survey for England is the sixth annual survey

undertaken to improve information on the state of the population's

health, risk factors for diseases and the precursors of ill-health.

2. The Survey asked 16,443 adults (aged 16 or over) and 3,885

children (aged 2 - 15) detailed questions about their health and

lifestyle. Respondents were also weighed and measured, blood

pressure and lung function were assessed and blood samples were taken

to bring together comprehensive information in a single survey.

3. The 1996 Health Survey for England was carried out by the Joint

Health Surveys Unit of Social and Community Planning Research, an

independent research institute, and the Department of Epidemiology

and Public Health, University College London.

4. The focus of the 1997 Health Survey is young people aged 2 - 24.

The 1998 survey will concentrate on cardiovascular disease.

5. 'Average' blood pressure referred to above is the mean systolic

blood pressure. This fell from 139mm Hg in 1991 to 136mm Hg in 1996.

6. Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater

than 30.0 kg/m2.

7. A major accident was defined as one which involved subsequent

contact with the medical profession.

8. The incidence of drinking is expressed in the old weekly unit

rate as the survey was designed prior to the new daily benchmarks.

9. Copies of the full report Health Survey for England 1996 are

available from HMSO: ISBN 0-11-322091-X, price£60.

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