Administrative record linkage as a tool for public health research

Annu Rev Public Health. 2011:32:91-108. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031210-100700.


Linked administrative databases offer a powerful resource for studying important public health issues. Methods developed and implemented in several jurisdictions across the globe have achieved high-quality linkages for conducting health and social research without compromising confidentiality. Key data available for linkage include health services utilization, population registries, place of residence, family ties, educational outcomes, and use of social services. Linking events for large populations of individuals across disparate sources and over time permits a range of research possibilities, including the capacity to study low-prevalence exposure-disease associations, multiple outcome domains within the same cohort of individuals, service utilization and chronic disease patterns, and life course and transgenerational transmission of health. Limited information on variables such as individual-level socioeconomic status (SES) and social supports is outweighed by strengths that include comprehensive follow-up, continuous data collection, objective measures, and relatively low expense. Ever advancing methodologies and data holdings guarantee that research using linked administrative databases will make increasingly important contributions to public health research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research
  • Humans
  • Medical Record Linkage*
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Public Health Informatics*