This indicator measures the percentage of 4 to 12 year old children who have a “borderline” or “abnormal” score on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) section of the Scottish Health Survey (SHeS).

Source of Data:

The data for this indicator is gathered through the Scottish Health Survey (SHeS). SHeS is commissioned by the Scottish Government Health Directorates to provide reliable information on the health, and factors related to health, of people living in Scotland that cannot be obtained from other sources.

Please note that while the methodology for data collection for this indicator is unchanged, SDQ data was not collected in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the 4-year period reported on covers 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, and excludes 2020. The methodology used in 2021 was consistent with previous years.

Fieldwork for the 2020 and 2021 surveys were significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fieldwork for SHeS 2020 was suspended in March 2020. Data for some of the key measures from SHeS was collected via a telephone survey in August and September 2020, but this did not include the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) data collection from which this indicator is derived. SDQ data collection recommenced in 2021. While the method of recruiting participants differed to previous years, the methodology of data collection for SDQ was unchanged, with parents completing a questionnaire on behalf of their 4-12 year old children. The sample size was also largely unaffected for this measure, and used combined data from the previous years - as has been done for previous publications of SDQ data in SHeS – which allows more robust demographic and SDQ dimensional breakdowns. For further info on SHeS methodology please see: The Scottish Health Survey 2021 - volume 2: technical report - (

Results from Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire section of SHeS are published annually on the Scottish Government website, in the “Supplementary Tables” section which is usually published in the months after the main SHeS findings are reported.

2017-2021: Scottish Health Survey 2021: supplementary tables - (


The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) measures wellbeing in Children aged 4 to 12 across five dimensions in order to score them for each dimension individually and to give each child a “total difficulties score”. The five dimensions making up the SDQ are Emotional Symptoms; Conduct Disorder; Hyperactivity; Peer Problems; and Prosocial Behaviour.

The “total difficulties score” a child receives can range from 0 to 40, with a higher score indicating more difficulties. Traditionally a three-band categorisation has been used whereby if an individual has a score between 0-13, they are deemed “normal”; 14-16 they are “borderline”; and 17-40, they are “abnormal”. (NB: There is also a newer four-band categorisation in use but SHeS reports using three bands).

Criteria for Change:

Performance is improving if the indicator decreases for three years in a row by at least 1 percentage point each year.

Performance is worsening if the indicator increases for three years in a row by at least 1 percentage point each year.

Elsewise, performance maintains.

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