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Research shades light on how to improve alcohol consumption estimates

University of Glasgow Institute of Health and Wellbeing project explores and addresses non-response bias in health surveys with a focus on alcohol consumption.

Reliable estimates of health-related behaviours, such as levels of alcohol consumption in the population, are required to formulate and evaluate policies. National surveys provide such data; validity depends on generalisability, but this is threatened by declining response levels. Attempts to address bias arising from non-response are typically limited to survey weights based on sociodemographic characteristics, which do not capture differential health and related behaviours within categories.

Key messages from the study

National health surveys provide estimates of behaviours in the population—such as levels of alcohol consumption—which inform health policies, but validity depends on their representativeness of the general population. Declining response levels mean that surveys may be increasingly less representative.

This project aims to compare data from Scottish Health Surveys record-linked to administrative health data sources with corresponding general population data to resolve non-representativeness by using differentials to derive probabilities of alcohol-related hospitalisations and deaths in non-responders; the numbers missing from surveys will be identified by demographic subgroup to simulate observations for non-responders with corresponding alcohol-related harm probabilities and then multiply impute alcohol consumption.

More accurate alcohol consumption estimation will lead to improved evaluation of interventions and enhanced information for policy. We shall ultimately devise a general application correction factor which will offer a valuable boost to survey-based research.

Read more in the BMJ protocol paper

Have a look at the presentation by Investigator Scientist Emma Gorman

EUPHA2013_GORMAN : 809.58 kB