The European Social Survey now includes a Health Inequality Module

05 October 2015

The European Social Survey (ESS) is a cross-national survey that has been conducted every two years across Europe since 2001. The survey measures the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of diverse populations in more than thirty nations.

The aims of the ESS include:

  • Charting stability and change in social structure, conditions and attitudes in Europe and to interpret how Europe’s social, political and moral fabric is changing;
  • Introducing sound, evidence-based indicators of national progress, based on citizens’ perceptions and judgements of key aspects of their societies;
  • Improving the visibility and outreach of data on social change among academics, policy makers and the wider public.

At least 1,500 people (or 800 people in countries with a population of less than 2 million) aged 15 or over - and resident with private households in the countries, regardless of nationality, citizenship or language - are selected by strict random probability method.

Core modules cover media and social trust, politics, human values, democracy, gender and household, personal and subjective well-being, and social demographics. In addition, in each round of the ESS multi-national teams of researchers are selected to contribute to the design of two rotating modules. ESS data is available free of charge for non-commercial use and can be downloaded from the website after registering for access.

The health inequality module of the ESS

The 2014 (7th) round of the ESS included a rotating module on health inequalities for the first time, which allows more detailed research on the underlying social and behavioural factors.  Its inclusion was the result of a proposal submitted by Terje Eikemo (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway), Johan Mackenbach (Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam, the Netherlands), Clare Bambra (Durham University, UK), Olle Lundberg (Stockholm University, Sweden) and Tim Huijts (Utrecht University, the Netherlands).

The rationale for the rotating health inequality module was that health inequalities research is dominated by risk factors, and the new module would enable easier examination of the structural determinants of non-health factors, including lifestyle factors.

The health inequalities module contains questions concerning:

  • Fruit and vegetable consumption
  • Physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • BMI
  • Health care utilisation
  • Provision of unpaid care
  • Dimensions of mental wellbeing
  • Self-reported conditions
  • Childhood conditions
  • Housing quality
  • Working conditions


  • The data will become available shortly. In the meantime Prof. Terje Eikemo, is keen to help create links between researchers interested in collaborating on analysis of this new data set, so as it exploit its potentials more fully. For more information on the ESS visit

  • To find out more about the health inequalities rotating module and express an interest in being involved in analysis of the data contact Terje Eikemo.

  • The ESS health inequality module was the subject of a pre-conference held by ESHMS at its third special interest meeting in Trondheim (Norway), 3-4 September 2015.

  • EuroHealthNet’s CIRI Coordinator, Linden Farrer, presented on DRIVERS, analysis of the 2015 CSRs in relation to healthy life years and pension ages, Horizon 2020, and discussed future potential collaboration on health inequalities research over the coming years.