The Impact on National Death Index Ascertainment of Limiting Submissions to Social Security Administration Death Master File Matches in Epidemiologic Studies of Mortality

Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, 6120 Executive Blvd., Rockville, MD 20852, USA.
American journal of epidemiology (Impact Factor: 4.98). 03/2009; 169(7):901-8. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwn404
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Although many epidemiologists use the National Death Index (NDI) as the “gold standard” for ascertainment of US mortality,
high search costs per year and per subject for large cohorts warrant consideration of less costly alternatives. In this study,
for 1995–2001 deaths, the authors compared matches of a random sample of 11,968 National Institutes of Health (NIH)-AARP Diet
and Health Study subjects to the Social Security Administration's Death Master File (DMF) and commercial list updates (CLU)
with matches of those subjects to the NDI. They examined how varying the lower limits of estimated DMF match probabilities
(m scores of 0.60, 0.20, and 0.05) altered the benefits and costs of mortality ascertainment. Observed DMF/CLU ascertainment
of NDI-identified decedents increased from 89.8% to 95.1% as m decreased from 0.60 (stringent) to 0.20 (less stringent) and increased further to 96.4% as m decreased to 0.05 (least stringent). At these same cutpoints, the false-match probability increased from 0.4% of the sample
to 0.6% and then 2.3%. Limiting NDI cause-of-death searches to subjects found in DMF searches using less stringent match criteria,
further supplemented by CLU vital status updates, improves vital status assessment while increasing substantially the cost-effectiveness
of ascertaining mortality in large prospective cohort studies.

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    • "The validity of mortality records from the NDI is typically high, with true-positives achieved from social security numbers and the additional identifiers (used in the GSS matching process) reaching 99.8% [42]. Cause of death was determined by collapsing International Classification of Disease-9 records into 285 mutually exclusive categories using the Clinical Classification Software (CCS) [36]. "
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