How good is your health and well-being? How healthy is your diet? How often do you exercise or get tested for chronic diseases? And, what do you think about our healthcare system?
This (and much more) is what we want to find out in the 7th national Health Interview Survey!
You have received an invitation to take part in the national Health Interview Survey of 2023. Sciensano has been organising these surveys in Belgium since 1997. The Health Interview Survey addresses different health aspects, health-related lifestyles and the use of health services among people living in Belgium. Your household, as 6,000 others in our country, was randomly selected to participate in our survey. Your participation in the survey can have a major impact on the health policy in our country.
This research is important for us all. The results provide information for:
- shaping evidence-based health policies
- improving the health and lifestyle of the population
- ensuring an accessible and tailored health care system
- reducing health inequalities between the different population groups
What will participating consist of?
- Our Statbel-interviewer will visit you to arrange an appointment for the survey interview.
- Choose a moment that suits all members of your household (note that in large households, a maximum of 4 members are selected for the survey).
- The interview consists of both an oral questionnaire (interview) and a paper questionnaire (to fill in yourself). You need between 20 minutes and an hour per person to complete both parts. The time to foresee depends on the age and health status of the respondent.
Frequently asked questions
Why is my participation so important?
Your answers will usefully contribute to draw a representative picture of the general health status and lifestyle of the population, and to analyse the extent to which the healthcare and preventive services are used. The results of this survey will help to improve access to healthcare and to implement proactive health policies that are adapted to the needs of the population. Furthermore, the anonymised data can be used by public institutions such as universities, scientific institutions and international organisations for further research.
How was my household selected?
We randomly selected 164 municipalities in Belgium, which included the one you live in. The households in these municipalities were then selected from the National Register, also on a random basis. Our target is to invite about 6,000 households in Belgium in 2023 (max. 4 individuals per household) in order to interview 11,300 people in total.
What does the research consists of?
This survey is organised by Sciensano, the Belgian Institute of Health. Sciensano is responsible for the content of the survey, the data analysis and the reporting of results. We work in collaboration with Statbel, the Belgian Statistical Office. Statbel is in charge of drawing the sample from the National Register, as well as for the recruitment and management of the interviewers and the data entry of the written questionnaire.
As announced in the invitation letter, an interviewer from Statbel will come to your doorstep to ask whether you agree to participate in the Health Interview Survey. If you wish to take part, you will schedule an appointment together for the interview. This should take place at a time that suits all the selected members of your household (max. 4 people).
The survey consists of two linked questionnaires: an oral and a written one. The interviewer will read out the oral questionnaire in a face-to-face setting with each selected household member using a PC. The oral interview also has questions about the household itself, which are exclusively addressed to the reference person or his/her partner.
The written questionnaire is only for the household members aged 15 years or older. It is important that this paper questionnaire is completed by the selected person her/himself.
How long does an interview last?
The survey can take 20 to 60 minutes per person, depending on the age and health conditions of the respondent.
Is participation in the Health Interview Survey mandatory?
No, participation is not mandatory, but is highly valued. We sincerely hope that you will agree to take part in this survey, as your answers are of great importance to health policy. Note that you also have the right to stop participation at any time during the interview. Even when the research is finished, you can decide that your data may not be used, and this, without any consequence for you.
Can I renounce participation because, for example, I am seriously ill or have to go to hospital?
This is not a obligatory survey, but to ensure the quality of the results, it is very important that all selected households participate. However, we understand your situation and recognise it is difficult for you to participate. We therefore suggest that another member of your household, called a proxy, will answer the questions on your behalf.
Am I being paid for participation?
No, no compensation is provided, but by participating, you will improve community health policies. Your participation contributes to depicting a reliable picture of the health-related situation and the use of health services of the population in Belgium. This benefits public health policy.
I’m moving soon. What should I do?
The invitation letter to take part in this survey was sent to your residence as documented in the National Register. We assume that you will still be living at this address at the time the interviewer makes contact with you. If you no longer live at this address, we would be very grateful if you could let us know by phoning this number 0800/12033. If you moved to a new home within the same municipality, the interviewer will contact you at the new address you communicate. If you moved to another municipality, we can no longer include you in the Health Interview Survey sample.
Who is this research aimed at?
The Health Interview Survey is targeted towards the whole population living in Belgium, regardless of their age, gender, nationality or health status (whether the people are perfectly healthy or have health problems). We need to have a representative picture of the health status of the total population of Belgium. This is why it is important that we can interview both the healthy and less healthy people.
How do I recognise a Statbel interviewer?
Our interviewers must always be able to show an accreditation card with a photo, the Statbel logo and the signature of the Statbel general manager on request. Usually, the interviewers also carry a copy of the invitation letter addressed to you and they also have a laptop with them. If you are still in doubt or have experienced problems during the interview, we recommend to contact our services on 0800/120.33 or via e-mail HIS@economie.fgov.be.
What if an interviewer comes by and no one is home?
We expect the interviewers to try to contact your household multiple times. If no one was home when the interviewer passed by, he/she will leave a business card in your letterbox indicating the date he/she will return. If you cannot be present on the proposed date, you can contact the interviewer and make a new appointment. The interviewer’s phone number is usually indicated at the bottom of the business card. If this is not the case, you can contact us on 0800/120.33 or via e-mail HIS@economie.fgov.be.
What if the interviewer hasn’t come by?
We insist that the interviewers contact the selected households soon after they receive the invitation letter, but it can happen that something goes wrong. If you received the invitation letter quite some time ago, but the interviewer has not showed up, we would greatly appreciate if you could contact us via the phone number 0800/120.33 or via e-mail HIS@economie.fgov.be.
Can the interview be conducted over the phone?
No, this survey is not designed to be conducted over the phone. The interviewer will visit your household, and make an appointment to conduct face-to-face interviews. It is not possible to deviate from this rule.
Are my answers confidential?
The information you provide to the interviewer is strictly confidential. The interviewers are obliged to keep professional secrecy, both by contract and by law.
In addition, all personal information we collect is treated with strict confidentiality. The data are stored and analysed in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation. We guarantee that no identification data are passed on to third parties. The results of this research will be published, but these publications will never contain information that makes it possible to identify the participants in the survey.
This research has been approved by the Medical Ethics Committee of the Ghent University Hospital (UZ Gent) and Ghent University.
When will the results of this research be available?
We expect the 11,300 surveys to be completed by the end of June 2024. After this, we can start checking the data and performing numerous analyses. March 2025, the first results will be published and appear in the media. The reports of the previous Health Interview Surveys can be found on our project page. We will also publish the results for the 2023 Health Interview Survey on this page.
Where can I find more information about the Health Interview Survey?
Information regarding the Belgian Health Interview Survey is available on our project page. The last survey, in 2018, showed some noteworthy results. For instance:
- The number of people with a chronic condition continues to increase. This shows the importance of sufficient budgetary resources to provide chronically ill patients with the necessary care.
- One person out of 10 (aged 15 and older) suffered from anxiety or depression. It is more often the case in women, in less educated people and in people with low family incomes. This result shows the importance of taking actions that reduce socioeconomic inequalities and discrimination in society to enhance the well-being of the population and reduce the burden of mental health problems.
- Overweight and obesity have increased during the past 2 decades. In 2018, nearly half of the adult population was overweight and 16% was obese. We also found that people still do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. Additionally, it appeared that the sitting time during the day is too long (6 hours on average). The good news is that these are often habits that can be changed. Prevention and promotion campaigns to encourage a healthy lifestyle are important in this regard.
- Belgium still falls short of international targets for the early detection of breast and cervical cancer: only 67% of women aged 50 to 69 have had a mammography in the past 2 years and 68% of women of the same age group have had a cervical smear test in the past 3 years. Early detection is an important strategy in the prevention of breast, cervical and colorectal cancer.
- Nearly 1 in 10 households have indicated that they needed medical care, dental care, (prescribed) medicines, glasses and/or psychological help in the past year, but had to postpone them due to financial reasons.
- There were also some positive trends is the results of the last survey: tobacco use is decreasing and people smoke less inside their homes: from 31% in 2004 to 16% in 2018. Smoking bans and health promotion campaigns will certainly have contributed to this.