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Use of record-linkage to handle non-response and improve alcohol consumption estimates in health survey data: a study protocol
  1. Linsay Gray1,
  2. Gerry McCartney2,
  3. Ian R White3,
  4. Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi1,
  5. Lisa Rutherford4,
  6. Emma Gorman1,
  7. Alastair H Leyland1
  1. 1Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2NHS Health Scotland, Glasgow, UK
  3. 3MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge, UK
  4. 4ScotCen Social Research, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Linsay Gray; l.gray{at}


Introduction Reliable estimates of health-related behaviours, such as levels of alcohol consumption in the population, are required to formulate and evaluate policies. National surveys provide such data; validity depends on generalisability, but this is threatened by declining response levels. Attempts to address bias arising from non-response are typically limited to survey weights based on sociodemographic characteristics, which do not capture differential health and related behaviours within categories. This project aims to explore and address non-response bias in health surveys with a focus on alcohol consumption.

Methods and analysis The Scottish Health Surveys (SHeS) aim to provide estimates representative of the Scottish population living in private households. Survey data of consenting participants (92% of the achieved sample) have been record-linked to routine hospital admission (Scottish Morbidity Records (SMR)) and mortality (from National Records of Scotland (NRS)) data for surveys conducted in 1995, 1998, 2003, 2008, 2009 and 2010 (total adult sample size around 40 000), with maximum follow-up of 16 years. Also available are census information and SMR/NRS data for the general population. Comparisons of alcohol-related mortality and hospital admission rates in the linked SHeS-SMR/NRS with those in the general population will be made. Survey data will be augmented by quantification of differences to refine alcohol consumption estimates through the application of multiple imputation or inverse probability weighting. The resulting corrected estimates of population alcohol consumption will enable superior policy evaluation. An advanced weighting procedure will be developed for wider use.

Ethics and dissemination Ethics approval for SHeS has been given by the National Health Service (NHS) Multi-Centre Research Ethics Committee and use of linked data has been approved by the Privacy Advisory Committee to the Board of NHS National Services Scotland and Registrar General. Funding has been granted by the MRC. The outputs will include four or five public health and statistical methodological international journal and conference papers.

Primary subject heading Public health.

Secondary subject heading Addiction: health policy; mental health.

  • Mental Health
  • Public Health
  • Statistics & Research Methods

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