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Open Access Highly Accessed Data Note

The general social survey-national death index: an innovative new dataset for the social sciences

Peter Muennig1*, Gretchen Johnson1, Jibum Kim2, Tom W Smith2 and Zohn Rosen1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Policy and Management, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 600 W. 168th Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10032, USA

2 National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, 1155 E. 60th St. #270, Chicago IL 60637, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:385  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-385

Published: 6 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Social epidemiology seeks in part to understand how social factors--ideas, beliefs, attitudes, actions, and social connections--influence health. However, national health datasets have not kept up with the evolving needs of this cutting-edge area in public health. Sociological datasets that do contain such information, in turn, provide limited health information.

Findings

Our team has prospectively linked three decades of General Social Survey data to mortality information through 2008 via the National Death Index. In this paper, we describe the sample, the core elements of the dataset, and analytical considerations.

Conclusions

The General Social Survey-National Death Index (GSS-NDI), to be released publicly in October 2011, will help shape the future of social epidemiology and other frontier areas of public health research.