Data sources and quality
Data are drawn from national surveys, administrative data, research studies, data dashboards, and other sources. Examples of resources include, for example, repeated national surveys such as the census, the Health Survey for England, the Scottish Health Survey, the Labour Force Survey, and the Annual Population Survey; administrative data such as Hospital Episode Statistics and government data on exam results, research studies such as the UK national longitudinal studies, the Health Behaviour in School Aged Children study or the Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use surveys; and other sources such as reports from regulators such as Ofcom.
The main sources we rely on have had to meet some quality criteria. They need to draw on a significant sample size, result in generalised results to a known population, use reliable and valid survey instruments, and they need to adhere to the standards of ethical research methods. Where there are gaps in published data we have occasionally drawn on research undertaken with smaller sample sizes or in limited geographical areas. The text makes clear reference to the sources in all cases and we say if we have reservations about generalising from the data.
Following standards set by the World Health Organisation and others, we try to report data in five year age bands, the most relevant for us being 10-14, 15-19 and 20-24. However, data are often not broken down fully by age, being presented, for example, for all children and young people together. We regularly raise this in our work as a limitation to understanding young people’s particular health needs as they go through adolescence and into adulthood.