Registers of the Swedish total population and their use in medical research

Eur J Epidemiol. 2016 Feb;31(2):125-36. doi: 10.1007/s10654-016-0117-y. Epub 2016 Jan 14.


The primary aim of the Swedish national population registration system is to obtain data that (1) reflect the composition, relationship and identities of the Swedish population and (2) can be used as the basis for correct decisions and measures by government and other regulatory authorities. For this purpose, Sweden has established two population registers: (1) The Population Register, maintained by the Swedish National Tax Agency ("Folkbokföringsregistret"); and (2) The Total Population Register (TPR) maintained by the government agency Statistics Sweden ("Registret över totalbefolkningen"). The registers contain data on life events including birth, death, name change, marital status, family relationships and migration within Sweden as well as to and from other countries. Updates are transmitted daily from the Tax Agency to the TPR. In this paper we describe the two population registers and analyse their strengths and weaknesses. Virtually 100 % of births and deaths, 95 % of immigrations and 91 % of emigrations are reported to the Population Registers within 30 days and with a higher proportion over time. The over-coverage of the TPR, which is primarily due to underreported emigration data, has been estimated at up to 0.5 % of the Swedish population. Through the personal identity number, assigned to all residents staying at least 1 year in Sweden, data from the TPR can be used for medical research purposes, including family design studies since each individual can be linked to his or her parents, siblings and offspring. The TPR also allows for identification of general population controls, participants in cohort studies, as well as calculation of follow-up time.

Keywords: Population; Public health; Register; Registry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Electronic Health Records / ethics
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethics, Research
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mortality*
  • Patient Identification Systems*
  • Registries*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Siblings
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology