New Zealand Health Survey results published

2 December 2021

Results from the New Zealand Health Survey 2020/21 have been published today.

The annual New Zealand Health Survey results provide valuable information about the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, says Deputy Director of Public Health, Niki Stefanogiannis.

“The survey is a key data source and provides statistics on New Zealander’s self-rated health, smoking, drinking, obesity, mental health status and barriers to accessing healthcare.

“The 2020/21 results are based on data collected between September 2020 and August 2021. These results provide some insights about what impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the health of New Zealanders.

“COVID-19 has been a huge focus for the health sector. The release of the survey results highlight the other key health issues we need to continue to work on.

“The survey shows while most Kiwis are in good health, psychological distress has increased from previous years, with nearly one in 10 adults experiencing distress. The Government is transforming Aotearoa’s approach to mental health and addiction, so people can get the support they need, when, where, and how they need it. Kia Manawanui, the Government’s new high-level plan, outlines the actions we will take in the short, medium and long term.

“Also of note in the survey, daily smoking has decreased, with this year showing a larger than usual decrease - 9.4% down from 11.9% the year before. While this is positive news, daily smoking for Maori (22.3%) and Pacific (16.4%) adults continues to be high, so we need to continue our efforts in this area.

“The survey also highlights that obesity has increased since the year before for adults and children. About 1.5 million New Zealanders were obese in 2020/21 compared to 1.36 million in 2019/20. The Government is taking a broad population approach to achieving healthy weight, with a focus on improved nutrition and increased physical activity. There are a range of initiatives such as Green Prescriptions, Healthy Families NZ, fruit in schools, and eating and activity guidelines,” Niki Stefanogiannis says.

The findings are published on the Ministry’s interactive web tool, the Annual Data Explorer. Annual Update of Key Results 2020/21. For the first time, a visual summary of key results has also been presented in an infographic poster.

Key results show:

  • Most New Zealanders are in good health. In 2020/21, 88% of adults reported they were in good health, a one percent increase on the previous year.
  • However, psychological distress among adults has increased. Nearly one in 10 (9.6%) adults experienced distress, up from 7.5% the previous year. Adults living in the most deprived areas had higher rates of distress (15.2%) than those in the least deprived areas (6.1%).
  • About one in 10 adults (10.2%) reported cost as a barrier to seeing a GP. Maori (15.7%) and Pacific (15.2%) adults were more likely to report cost as a barrier.
  • A new indicator, barriers to accessing primary care due to COVID-19, showed in 2020/21, 6.3% adults and 3.6% children did not see a GP due to COVID-19. Pacific adults and children were more likely to report COVID-19 as a barrier to seeing a GP and collecting a prescription than other ethnic groups.
  • Notably, daily smoking rates have continued to decrease, down to 9.4% from 11.9% the year before, however e-cigarette use has increased. Maori (22.3%) and Pacific (16.4%) adults reported higher smoking rates than other ethnic groups. 6.2% of adults were daily e-cigarette users in 2020/21, up from 3.5% the previous year.
  • Obesity has increased in both adults and children. About one in three adults (34.4%) were classified as obese in 2020/21, up from 31.2% in 2019/20. Nearly one in eight children aged 2-14 (12.7%) were classified as obese, up from 9.5% in 2019/20.
  • Hazardous drinking remained about the same. One in five adults (19.9%) reported having a hazardous drinking pattern in 2020/21, similar to 21.3% the year before.
  • There are some new indicators in the Annual Data Explorer on household food insecurity. About one in seven children (14.9%) lived in households where food runs out sometimes or often. This is down from 20% in 2019/20.


This year’s Annual Data Explorer consists of approximately 160 indicators related to adult and child health. The data helps the Ministry and its stakeholders identify key health and wellbeing issues and monitor trends.

During 2020 and 2021, the survey was suspended for some periods when there was an elevated risk of COVID-19 in an area. The annual sample size for previous years was approximately 14,000 adults and 4,500 children. This year 9,709 adults and 2,954 children were surveyed. While there were fewer interviews, this has not impacted the overall results.


Last updated: Friday, December 3, 2021

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