General health

Mnemonic (reference code): HEALTH

Type: Primary variable

Definition: General health is a self-assessment of a person's general state of health. People were asked to assess whether their health was very good, good, fair, bad or very bad. This assessment is not based on a person's health based over any specified period of time.

Applicability: Person





Very good








Very bad


No code required

Total number of categories: 6

Not applicable category (X) comprises: Schoolchildren and full-time students living away from home during term time.

Source question:

Image of Scottish question 19 from 2011

Scotland 2011

Reason for asking: On the basis that self-perceived poor health is a strong indicator of future use of the health service, analysis of this information aids government health resource allocation and service provision.

This information also helps to develop and monitor policy on the delivery of health care, the reduction of health inequalities and the assessment of progress towards improving the general health of the population.

In cognitive question testing done by Ipsos MORI Scotland, the main issue surrounding this question was that its subjective nature would lead to inconsistency of response. Respondents found it more difficult to answer than other questions, not because they had problems understanding the question, but because they had to weigh up their situation and make a decision, sometimes taking several factors into account. Regardless of this, we have concluded that the question works well and recommend that no changes should be made to it.

England & Wales (2011) and Scotland (2001) comparisons:

The question in England & Wales (2011) is identical to the Scotland (2011) question.

In 2001 the question in Scotland had only 3 tick boxes compared to 5 in 2011. The question also referred to the 'last 12 months' unlike the 2011 question that did not refer to time.

Image of Scottish question 7 from 2001

Scotland 2001


To see which of our published standard, additional and commissioned tables use this variable please use the Table Index.