The public-use National Health Interview Survey linked mortality files: methods of reidentification risk avoidance and comparative analysis

Am J Epidemiol. 2008 Aug 1;168(3):336-44. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn123. Epub 2008 May 23.


The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) conducts mortality follow-up for its major population-based surveys. In 2004, NCHS updated the mortality follow-up for the 1986-2000 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) years, which because of confidentiality protections was made available only through the NCHS Research Data Center. In 2007, NCHS released a public-use version of the NHIS Linked Mortality Files that includes a limited amount of perturbed information for decedents. The modification of the public-use version included conducting a reidentification risk scenario to determine records at risk for reidentification and then imputing values for either date or cause of death for a select sample of records. To demonstrate the comparability between the public-use and restricted-use versions of the linked mortality files, the authors estimated relative hazards for all-cause and cause-specific mortality risk using a Cox proportional hazards model. The pooled 1986-2000 NHIS Linked Mortality Files contain 1,576,171 records and 120,765 deaths. The sample for the comparative analyses included 897,232 records and 114,264 deaths. The comparative analyses show that the two data files yield very similar results for both all-cause and cause-specific mortality. Analytical considerations when examining cause-specific analyses of numerically small demographic subgroups are addressed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Confidentiality*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Death Certificates*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maryland / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends*
  • National Center for Health Statistics, U.S.*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • United States / epidemiology