Linking 2006 Census and hospital data in Canada

Michelle Rotermann, Claudia Sanmartin, Richard Trudeau, Hélène St-Jean
Health Reports 2015, 26 (10): 10-20

BACKGROUND: Record linkage is commonly used in health research to fill data gaps. This study summarizes the linkage of the 2006 Census of Population (excluding Quebec) to hospital data from the Discharge Abstract Database (DAD).

DATA AND METHODS: Hierarchical deterministic exact matching was employed to link 2006 Census and DAD (2006/2007, 2007/2008 and 2008/2009) data, based on linkage keys derived from three variables common to both files-date of birth, postal code and sex. The full census file (short-form; 23.4 million) was used for record linkage; the 20% file (long-form; 4.65 million) representing the study cohort was used for validation. Linked files were compared across jurisdictions, years and other selected covariates in terms of eligibility for linkage, keys linked, and linkage and coverage rates.

RESULTS: Overall, 80% of linkage keys identified in the DAD were linked to the 2006 Census. The percentage of long-form census respondents linked to at least one hospital record ranged between 5% and 8% across jurisdictions; linkage rates were higher among known high users of hospital services: older age groups, lower-income individuals, and Aboriginal people. In general, the linked census file represents the majority of hospital events that occurred during the study period. Coverage rates (weighted/unweighted) varied by geography and age group, with lower weighted rates for the territories and some younger age groups.

INTERPRETATION: With hierarchical deterministic exact matching, census data can be linked to multiple years of DAD data. Incorporation of updated postal codes from tax files reduced linkage rate attrition over time. Lower coverage rates for the territories and younger age groups suggest that these populations may be underrepresented in the linked files.

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