Using administrative data to understand mental health in Northern Ireland: results from two exemplar projects
Dr Aideen Maguire, Dr Mark McCann, Dr John Moriarty and Dr Dermot O’Reilly (QUB)
Mental ill health is a major contributor to the burden of disease among the population. Associations have been found between gender, deprivation and bereavement and mental ill health; but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Emerging studies are using a novel method of measuring population mental health by linking existing administrative healthcare data to Census returns data and GRO death records to determine the prevalence and predictors of depression in the entire Northern Ireland population. In the two studies illustrated in this presentation, prescribing data on psychotropic medications dispensed in community pharmacies in Northern Ireland were linked to Census returns data from the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study and death data. Results show 17% of Northern Ireland population is on antidepressants. In the most deprived areas almost 50% of women aged over 45 years are on anti-depressants, and those living in urban or interface areas are at a higher risk. Bereavement is associated with an increased risk of poor mental health also, with sudden deaths inflicting greater impact on mental health and bereavement following suicide having the greatest impact. The innovative method explained in this presentation outlines a quick, inexpensive way: to gain an accurate picture of population mental health; to determine associations; to calculate risk; and, to inform policy.