Can we use medical examiners' records for suicide surveillance and prevention research in Nova Scotia?

Chronic Dis Inj Can. 2011 Sep;31(4):165-71.


Introduction: Medical examiners' records can contribute to our understanding of the extent of suicide in a population, as well as associated sociodemographic and other factors.

Methods: Using a mixed methods approach, the key objective of this pilot study was to determine the sources and types of information found in the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service (NSMES) records that might inform suicide surveillance and targeted prevention efforts. A secondary objective was to describe the one-year cohort of 108 individuals who died by suicide in 2006 in terms of available sociodemographic information and health care use in the year prior to death.

Results: Data extraction revealed inconsistencies both across and within files in terms of the types and amounts of sociodemographic and other data collected, preventing correlational analyses. However, linkage of the records to administrative databases revealed frequent health care use in the month prior to death.

Conclusion: The introduction of systematic data collection to NSMES investigations may yield a comprehensive dataset useful for policy development and population level research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Coroners and Medical Examiners*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Record Linkage*
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nova Scotia / epidemiology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide Prevention*