The general social survey-national death index: an innovative new dataset for the social sciences

BMC Res Notes. 2011 Oct 6;4:385. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-4-385.


Background: Social epidemiology seeks in part to understand how social factors--ideas, beliefs, attitudes, actions, and social connections--influence health. However, national health datasets have not kept up with the evolving needs of this cutting-edge area in public health. Sociological datasets that do contain such information, in turn, provide limited health information.

Findings: Our team has prospectively linked three decades of General Social Survey data to mortality information through 2008 via the National Death Index. In this paper, we describe the sample, the core elements of the dataset, and analytical considerations.

Conclusions: The General Social Survey-National Death Index (GSS-NDI), to be released publicly in October 2011, will help shape the future of social epidemiology and other frontier areas of public health research.