Researchers from King’s College London have made a groundbreaking achievement by being the first in England to link electronic mental health care records to census data at an individual level. The study, published in BMJ Open, involved linking de-identified data of 459,374 patients from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust to 2011 census data.
The researchers managed to link just over half (50.4%) of the records. They found that certain groups, such as young people aged 25-34, those from deprived areas, and minority ethnic groups, were less likely to be matched to a census record.
The success rate of matching records varied with the type of mental health condition. Lower rates were observed in those with schizophrenia or mental disorders due to substance use. Higher rates were seen in those with mental disorders caused by brain injury or disease, and those with frequent contact with services.
The study aimed to address the lack of socio-economic data in electronic health care records to examine the social factors of severe mental illness. The Clinical Research Interactive Search (CRIS) system was used to extract de-identified records and assess the effect of potential biases caused by non-matched records.
Dr. Das-Munshi stated that the study developed statistical methods to minimize the impact of missing census data on future work. This new linked dataset will allow researchers to understand how social experiences impact the onset and outcomes of mental health conditions on a scale never before possible in England.
In conclusion, King’s College London researchers have pioneered a method to link mental health records with census data, enhancing understanding of socio-economic factors in mental health. This innovative approach, overcoming previous data limitations, promises to shed new light on how social experiences influence mental health outcomes.