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Adjustment for survey non-representativeness using record-linkage: refined estimates of alcohol consumption by deprivation in Scotland

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Emma Gorman
  • Alastair H. Leyland
  • Gerry McCartney
  • Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi
  • Lisa Rutherford
  • Lesley Graham
  • Mark Robinson
  • Linsay Gray
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>07/2017
Issue number7
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)1270-1280
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date25/04/17
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Background and aims: Analytical approaches to addressing survey non-participation bias typically use only demographic information to improve estimates. We applied a novel methodology which uses health information from data linkage to adjust for non-representativeness. We illustrate the method by presenting adjusted alcohol consumption estimates for Scotland.

Design: Data on consenting respondents to the Scottish Health Surveys (SHeSs) 1995-2010 were linked confidentially to routinely collected hospital admission and mortality records. Synthetic observations representing non-respondents were created using general population data. Multiple imputation was performed to compute adjusted alcohol estimates given a range of assumptions about the missing data. Adjusted estimates of mean weekly consumption were additionally calibrated to per-capita alcohol sales data.

Setting: Scotland.

Participants: 13 936 male and 18 021 female respondents to the SHeSs 1995-2010, aged 20-64years.

Measurements: Weekly alcohol consumption, non-, binge- and problem-drinking.

Findings: Initial adjustment for non-response resulted in estimates of mean weekly consumption that were elevated by up to 17.8% [26.5units (18.6-34.4)] compared with corrections based solely on socio-demographic data [22.5 (17.7-27.3)]; other drinking behaviour estimates were little changed. Under more extreme assumptions the overall difference was up to 53%, and calibrating to sales estimates resulted in up to 88% difference. Increases were especially pronounced among males in deprived areas.

Conclusions: The use of routinely collected health data to reduce bias arising from survey non-response resulted in higher alcohol consumption estimates among working-age males in Scotland, with less impact for females. This new method of bias reduction can be generalized to other surveys to improve estimates of alternative harmful behaviours.