Canadian National Health Survey (CNHS)

Detailed information for 2016




One Time

Record number:


The objective of the Canadian National Health Survey (CNHS) is to gather information about the health of Canadians.

Data release - Will not be released


In 1991, the National Task Force on Health Information cited a number of issues and problems with the health information system. To respond to these issues, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), Statistics Canada and Health Canada joined forces to create a Health Information Roadmap. From this mandate, Statistics Canada health surveys, including the Canadian National Health Survey (CNHS) was conceived.

The CNHS is a cross-sectional survey that collects information related to health status, health care utilization and health determinants for the Canadian population.

The objective of Statistics Canada health surveys, including the Canadian National Health Survey is to support all levels of government by providing them with the timely information they need to evaluate existing programs and to design new ones suited to the needs of Canadians, and provide more current, detailed and uniform health information in every province and territory.

The primary use of Statistics Canada health surveys is for health surveillance and population health research.
Federal and provincial departments of health and human resources, social service agencies, and other types of government agencies use the information collected from respondents to monitor, plan, implement and evaluate programs to improve the health of Canadians. Researchers from various fields use the information to conduct research to improve health. Non-profit health organizations and the media use the results from Statistics Canada health surveys to raise awareness about health, an issue of concern to all Canadians.

Reference period: Varies according to the question (for example: "over the last 12 months", "over the last 6 months", "during the last week", etc.)


  • Health

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The CNHS covers the population 18 years of age and over living in the ten provinces. Excluded from the survey's coverage are: persons living in the territories; on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces; full-time members of the Canadian Forces; the institutionalized population and persons living in the Quebec health regions of Région du Nunavik and Région des Terres-Cries-de-la-Baie-James.

Instrument design

Each component of the CNHS questionnaire was developed in collaboration with specialists from Statistics Canada, other federal and provincial departments and/or academic fields. The CNHS questions are designed for computer-assisted interviewing (CAI), meaning that, as the questions were developed, the associated logical flow into and out of the questions was programmed. This includes specifying the type of answer required, the minimum and maximum values, on-line edits associated with the question and what to do in case of item non-response.

CNHS content was tested using different methods. Qualitative tests using individual cognitive interviews or, more rarely, focus groups are used to ensure that questions and concepts are appropriately worded.

The computer application for data collection was extensively tested in-house. The objective of these tests is to identify any errors in the program flow and text before the start of the main survey.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

The sample is selected from an area frame. A sample of dwellings is selected to target the population aged 18 and over. During collection, all members of the dwelling are listed and a person aged 18 years or over is automatically selected using various selection probabilities based on age and household composition.

The area frame is mainly designed to serve the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Thus, the sampling plan of the LFS must be considered in selecting the CNHS dwelling sample. The LFS plan is a complex two stage stratified design in which each stratum is formed of clusters. The LFS first selects clusters using a sampling method with a probability proportional to size (PPS), and then the final sample is chosen using a systematic sampling of dwellings in the cluster. For CNHS, LFS clusters are grouped in each HR. Then, a sample of clusters and systematic dwellings are selected in each HR. The process maximizes the overlap between the clusters selected by both surveys and ensures that the same dwelling is selected only once.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2016-01-04 to 2016-03-31

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

A small proportion of the data is collected from proxy respondents because of physical or mental incapacity from the selected respondent.

The CNHS questionnaire is administered using computer-assisted interviewing (CAI). The sample selected from the Area frame with at least one telephone number (including cellular phone numbers) will be interviewed using the Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) method. The sample selected without a telephone number will be interviewed using the Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) method. Some cases may be transferred to CAPI if the selected dwelling is not reached using the phone number from the Area frame.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

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