Generalisability of The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database: demographics, chronic disease prevalence and mortality rates

Inform Prim Care. 2011;19(4):251-5. doi: 10.14236/jhi.v19i4.820.


Introduction: The degree of generalisability of patient databases to the general population is important for interpreting database research. This report describes the representativeness of The Health Improvement Network (THIN), a UK primary care database, of the UK population.

Methods: Demographics, deprivation (Townsend), Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) condition prevalence and deaths from THIN were compared with national statistical and QOF 2006/2007 data.

Results: Demographics were similar although THIN contained fewer people aged under 25 years. Condition prevalence was comparable, e.g. 3.5% diabetes prevalence in THIN, 3.7% nationally. More THIN patients lived in the most affluent areas (23.5% in THIN, 20% nationally). Between 1990 and 2009, standardised mortality ratio ranged from 0.81 (95% CI: 0.39-1.49; 1990) to 0.93 (95% CI: 0.48-1.64; 1995). Adjusting for demographics/deprivation, the 2006 THIN death rate was 9.08/1000 population close to the national death rate of 9.4/1000 population.

Conclusion: THIN is generalisable to the UK for demographics, major condition prevalence and death rates adjusted for demographics and deprivation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Chronic Disease / mortality
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Quality Improvement / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult