Healthy children playingThe 2015 Health Survey for England (HSE) found that 16% of children aged 8 to 15 reported ever having an alcoholic drink – the lowest level reported since the HSE began and down from a high point of 45% in 2003.

The figures, published today by NHS Digital, also show that the proportion of 8 to 15-year-olds who reported that they had ever smoked a cigarette has decreased from 19% in 2003 to 4% in 2015.

The HSE gathers information from adults and children to monitor trends in the nation’s health. The 2015 survey includes information on adult health and social care and, for this survey, the number of 2 to 15-year-olds included in the survey was increased to enable a specific focus on child health issues.

In 2015, 28% of children aged 2 to 15 were either overweight (14%) or obese (14%). The proportion of boys who were overweight or obese (30%) was higher than the proportion of girls who were (26%). 

The surveys show that the prevalence of childhood obesity in England increased between 1995, when it was first measured, and 2005, but has remained relatively stable at between 14% and 17% since 2008.

Children from lower income household were more likely to be obese compared with those from higher income households: 18% of children from households in the lowest income quintile were obese, compared with 9% of children living in households in the highest income quintile.

For the 5 to 15 age group, 22% of children met the physical activity guidelines of being moderately active for at least 60 minutes every day.

Adult data

The survey also included details of adult health, including levels of adult smoking and obesity. It found:

  • The proportion of adults smoking cigarettes has fallen from 28% in 1998 to 18%
  • The proportion of adults who reported that they were current e-cigarette users was 5%, an increase from 3% in 2013
  • The prevalence of adult obesity has remained between 24% and 27%, for men and women, from 2010 to 2015
  • In 2015, 27% of adults were obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30kg/m2 or higher
  • A further 41% of men and 31% of women were overweight, with a BMI of at least 25 but less than 30kg/m2
  • 35% of men and 47% of women had ‘very high’ waist measurements. This was more common in middle aged and older adults than it was among younger people
  • In 2015, 83% of adults had drunk alcohol in the last 12 months. This figure has remained between 82% and 84% since 2011
  • More than half (52%) of adults said they usually drank at least once a week, with men (60%) more likely to have done so than women (44%)
  • Drinking more than 14 units in a usual week was most common among men and women aged 55 to 64 (41% and 24% respectively).