Demographic and health surveys: a profile

Int J Epidemiol. 2012 Dec;41(6):1602-13. doi: 10.1093/ije/dys184. Epub 2012 Nov 12.


Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) are comparable nationally representative household surveys that have been conducted in more than 85 countries worldwide since 1984. The DHS were initially designed to expand on demographic, fertility and family planning data collected in the World Fertility Surveys and Contraceptive Prevalence Surveys, and continue to provide an important resource for the monitoring of vital statistics and population health indicators in low- and middle-income countries. The DHS collect a wide range of objective and self-reported data with a strong focus on indicators of fertility, reproductive health, maternal and child health, mortality, nutrition and self-reported health behaviours among adults. Key advantages of the DHS include high response rates, national coverage, high quality interviewer training, standardized data collection procedures across countries and consistent content over time, allowing comparability across populations cross-sectionally and over time. Data from DHS facilitate epidemiological research focused on monitoring of prevalence, trends and inequalities. A variety of robust observational data analysis methods have been used, including cross-sectional designs, repeated cross-sectional designs, spatial and multilevel analyses, intra-household designs and cross-comparative analyses. In this profile, we present an overview of the DHS along with an introduction to the potential scope for these data in contributing to the field of micro- and macro-epidemiology. DHS datasets are available for researchers through MEASURE DHS at

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Demography / methods*
  • Demography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Global Health*
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Health Surveys / methods*
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproductive Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult