Joint Programming Initiative

More Years, Better Lives

The Potential and Challenges of Demographic Change

German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults
Studie zur Gesundheit Erwachsener in Deutschland (DEGS)

Health and Performance
Relevance for this Topic
Country Germany
More Topics


Contact information

Robert Koch-Institut; Fachgebiet 21 - Epidemiologisches Datenzentrum, Biometrie
Postfach 650261
13302 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30- 18107543326
Fax: +49 (0)30-1810 754 3326
Email: degs(at)

Timeliness, transparency

The scientific use file is available about 3 years after data collection.

Type of data


Type of Study

Longitude survey: long-term study of the same sample

Cross-section, regular

Data gathering method

Face-to-face interview (CAPI, PAPI)

Self-administered questionnaire

Physical examinations, test and analyses of blood and urine samples

Access to data

CD after agreement

Conditions of access

It is required to sign a data distribution contract prior to obtaining the data. 90 Euros are charged for each data CD.

1-2 weeks

anonymised microdata


Documentation (in parts) is available in German and English, while variables and value labels are available in German only. The homepage also contains all basic information (data access, etc.) in English.


Wave 1: Data collection for the GNHIES98 (German National Health Interview and Examination Survey 1998) sample was carried out from 1997 to 1999. It included a sample size of 7,124 individuals. Wave 2: Data collection for the DEGS1 sample was carried out from 2008 to 2011. It included a sample size of 8,152 individuals (Panel n = 3,959). Wave 3: Data collection for the next wave will be from 2014 to 2015. A new sample will be drawn in 2017-2018.


Type of community (ten-step BIK classification system, which takes into account the grade of urbanisation, regional population density, and administrative borders) and age (ten-year age groups)

Registry sample

National, NUTS3-level (Kreise)

Baseline samples: 18-79 years; panel sample: 28-91 years

Population representative of community-dwelling people between 18-79 years (baseline sample)

For the GNHIES98 sample (data collection between 1997 and 1999), 637 variables are available in the public use file. The public use file for the DEGS1 sample (data collection between 2008 and 2011) is not yet available. The instruments and constructs of the DEGS1 are more comprehensive compared to GNHIES98. Most importantly, health variables are available in both samples (see Scheidt-Nave et al., 2012). Some health information is assessed for 18-64 year old participants, or for 65 and older participants only (see Scheidt-Nave et al., 2012). The survey covers: self-reported morbidity (e.g. presence of long-standing illness), morbidity assessed by physician or health examination (e.g. cardiovascular disease), medication use, objective health measures (e.g. blood pressure and heart rate), symptoms and complaints (e.g. physical symptoms), mental health (e.g. depressive symptoms), subjective health, gender-specific health issues, injuries, falls, functional health (e.g. mobility), disability (e.g. activities of daily living), health-related behaviour (e.g. smoking, physical activity), living and social conditions (e.g. social support), socio-demographic context variables, and health care service utilisation (e.g. type of health insurance).

• Caskey FJ, Schober-Halstenberg H-J, Roderick PJ et al. Exploring the Differences in Epidemiology of treated ESRD between Germany and England and Wales. American Journal of Kidney Diseases 47 (3) (2006): 445-454. • Gößwald, A., Lange, M., Kamtsiuris, P., & Kurth, B. M. DEGS: German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults: A nationwide cross-sectional and longitudinal study within the framework of health monitoring conducted by the Robert Koch Institute]. Bundesgesundheitsblatt, Gesundheitsforschung, Gesundheitsschutz, 55(6-7) (2012): 775. • Hintzpeter, B, Menisnk GBM et al. Vitamin D status and health correlates among German adults. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 62 (2008): 1079–1089. • Kurth, B-M. Das RKI-Gesundheitsmonitoring - was es enthält und wie es genutzt werden kann. Public Health Forum 20 (3) (2012): 4.e1–4.e3. • Laaser U, &Breckenkamp J. Trends in risk factor control in Germany 1984-1998: high blood pressure and total cholesterol. European Journal of Public Health 16 (2) (2006): 217-222. • Scheidt-Nave C et al. Study protocol. German health interview and examination survey for adults (DEGS) - design, objectives and implementation of the first data collection wave. BMC Public Health 12 (2012):730. • Schneider S, & Becker S. Prevalence of Physical Activity among the Working Population and Correlation with Work-Related Factors: Results from the First German Health Survey. Journal of Occupational Health 47 (5) (2005): 414-423.


Majority of instruments are standardised questions and scales. The measuring standards of the Robert Koch Institute comply to European and international recommendations.

Only regional linkage on a district level via NUTS3-level (Kreise) is possible.

Data quality

Raw data is cleaned by the project organisers and checked for inconsistencies.

The original sample in 1998 (then: Bundes-Gesundheitssurvey, GNHIES98) was planned as a cross-sequential study, and since 2008, the survey (now DEGS) is funded as a regular longitudinal survey. The assessment of health indicators in DEGS is more comprehensive than GNHIES98. To some extent, updated versions of standardised instruments and measurements are used in DEGS.

No information available yet


The health data collected in DEGS are highly valuable as the survey provides extensive, nationally representative data for Germany. The assessment modes are ideal as the DEGS combines personal interviews, self-assessed questionnaires, physical examinations, and tests and analyses of blood and urine samples. The DEGS is the best data set to determine disease prevalence in the population. The DEGS allows for cross-sectional and trend analysis because of the regular assessment of baseline samples with comparable characteristics over time. Furthermore, individual changes in health can be analysed using the longitudinal data of reassessed participants (panel design). The Robert Koch institute has been involved in European initiatives to standardise national health interview and examination surveys, and for that reason, most data is comparable to other datasets in Germany and Europe. Minor weaknesses of the DEGS are the long period between first and re-assessment of participants (10-14 years between GNHIES98 and DEGS1), the under-representation of very old people, people living in institutions, and people with an immigration background. The focus on health also limited the potential of the survey to analyse underlying mechanisms, such as socio-economic status, social relations or health-related behaviour, in addition to the assessed well-known risk factors.

  • The information about this dataset was compiled by the author:
  • Andreas Motel-Klingebiel
  • (see Partners)